Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Friday, after Republicans managed to overcome a filibuster by Democrats after invoking a “nuclear option” to change the rules of the Senate. The nuclear option, so-called because of the potential long-term fallout of the rule change’s impact, makes it so that all presidential nominees for federal courts and executive branch positions require only a majority vote to be confirmed. Following the rule change, senators confirmed Gorsuch’s appointment with a vote of 54 to 45.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed the rule change as a positive change for the senate that would return it to past “tradition,” many, including Republican Senator John McCain, had warned against the potential consequences of invoking the nuclear option.
“Idiot, whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions,” said McCain on Wednesday, referring to comments in favor of the nuclear option. “And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”
Gorsuch’s first act as a Supreme Court Justice will come on Thursday, when the judges convene to determine what case they will review for next term. Notable cases potentially on the agenda could include a suit from business owners who refused their wedding services to same-sex couples on religious grounds and a case regarding voting-law changes in North Carolina that a lower court ruled had been designed to disenfranchise minority voters.
Gorsuch remained cagey about his judicial ideology during the confirmation process, but conservatives were buoyed by his past decisions favoring originalist constitutional interpretation and “religious freedom,” including a case in 2013 where he ruled that employers shouldn’t have to cover certain types of contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
While Gorsuch has not directly ruled on any abortion cases, he had argued in a book on assisted suicide that it was immoral to take away the right to life — a stance that observers expect he would also apply to abortion. In May of last year, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump promised that any judge he appointed to the Supreme Court would be “pro-life.”