Neil Gorsuch — President Donald Trump's nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia in early 2016 — is expected to be confirmed by the Senate on Friday in a vote at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
The conservative judge will likely ascend to the nation's highest court after Senate Republicans for the first time invoked the "nuclear option," changing the rules for confirming a Supreme Court nominee to bypass a Democratic filibuster against Gorsuch.
"America's faith in the integrity of the court and the trust of the rule of law will suffer," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor before the 52-48 vote. "The cooling saucer of the Senate will get considerably hotter. The 60-vote threshold is a hallmark of the Senate. It fosters compromise; it fosters bipartisanship."
But Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, charged that Democrats used the "nuclear option" — which was the only way Republicans could bring Gorsuch's confirmation to an up-or-down vote — in 2013, when Barack Obama was president.
McConnell said Thursday that the move will not get rid of the legislative filibuster, but it appears to have set a precedent for the confirming of Supreme Court nominees.
Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after Scalia's sudden death, but Republicans obstructed the nominee. Democrats oppose Gorsuch, a Colorado judge, for his conservative, "originalist" judicial philosophy and, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) put it, for "interpret[ing] the law in a theoretical bubble, completely detached from the real world."