In a victory for President Trump, the final 54-45 vote ended a lengthy partisan battle over the future of the court. Senate Republicans had to change decades of precedent in order to push the confirmation through.
The US Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday, ending a bitter partisan feud and the longest vacancy on the bench since the American Civil War. For many, it was the first congressional victory in Donald Trump's young presidency.
"Today is a new day," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying Gorsuch would make "an incredible addition to the court."
The 49-year-old judge from Colorado was officially promoted to the lifetime appointment by a 54-45 vote after Senate Republicans voted to change the rules requiring at least 60 votes for a confirmation. This so-called "nuclear option" was employed after Democratic lawmakers waged a filibuster in an attempt to block the appointment.
The result is an end to a decades-old system meant to encourage at least a degree of bipartisan consensus on appointees.
End of 13-month battle
Republicans have praised Gorsuch as the natural successor to the late Antonin Scalia, an arch-conservative who believed in interpreting the US Constitution as he believed it was written in 1787.
Although Scalia died in February 2016, when Barack Obama still had 11 months left in office, congressional Republicans took the unusual step of refusing to consider his nominee, moderate Judge Merrick Garland. With Democrats in the minority in the Senate at the time, this torpedoed Obama's bid to replace Scalia.
Liberals have slammed Gorsuch for cases in which he decided in favor of businesses and corporate interests at the expense of American workers.
The White House has said it expects Gorsuch could be sworn in as soon as Monday. His ascension will restore the nation's highest court to its 5-4 conservative majority. Some of the first cases Gorsuch could be expected to hear are on housing discrimination and workers' rights.
es/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)