Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado was confirmed on Friday as the newest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
When Gorsuch is sworn in on Monday, a conservative majority will be restored to the Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and a failed attempt by former President Barack Obama to replace Scalia with Judge Merrick Garland.
Even though he had the votes from the outset to assure Gorsuch’s confirmation, this was a major victory for President Donald Trump He fulfilled one of his central campaign promises – to nominate a Scalia-like Judge to the Supreme Court. But it happened only after Republicans were forced to change senate rules to bypass the Democrat threat of a filibuster and push Gorsuch across the finish line with less than the sixty votes previously required for confirmation.
Do the Democrats really believe their pre-scripted opposition to a judge who had enough votes for confirmation from the outset is a smart political decision? Do they think the benefit of energizing their electoral base that is still in disbelief at the outcome of the election and has become almost radicalized, outweighs the risk that, to the rest of the nation, they look like they’re only interested in obstruction?
We won’t get the answer to that question for some time.
But with the fifty-one-vote rule now having supplanted the sixty votes previously required for confirmation, President Trump is now free to select almost anyone for the court, as long as Republicans maintain control of the Senate. But is also assures that if Republicans lose control of the Senate, none of Trump’s potential future high court nominees can be confirmed without buy-in from the Democrats.
It is safe to assume that the older progressives on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer will stay on the court until their last dying breath to avoid having Trump replace them with another originalist like Scalia or Gorsuch…but there is also talk that the swing vote on the court, Anthony Kennedy, may be ready to retire. That would provide Trump with a second opportunity to take the court in a conservative direction.