WASHINGTON • The Republican-led Senate yesterday gave Mr Donald Trump the biggest triumph of his young presidency, confirming his Supreme Court nominee over stout Democratic opposition and restoring a conservative majority on the highest US judicial body.
The Senate, which last year refused to consider Democratic former president Barack Obama's nominee to the court, voted to approve Mr Trump's pick, Colorado-based federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, to the lifetime job.
Mr Gorsuch's confirmation ends the longest Supreme Court vacancy since 1862 during the American Civil War, with the court down a justice for almost 14 months since long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb 13 last year. "He's going to make an incredible addition to the court," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Republicans, possessing a 52-48 Senate majority, on Thursday overcame a ferocious Democratic effort to block a confirmation vote by resorting to a rule change known as the "nuclear option".
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who led the opposition to Mr Gorsuch, said he hopes the judge would heed concerns that the court is "increasingly drifting towards becoming a more pro-corporate court that favours employers, corporations and special interests over working America".
The Senate's approval of Mr Gorsuch, 49, reinstates the nine-seat court's 5-4 conservative majority, fulfilling an important campaign promise made by the Republican President.
Mr Gorsuch could be expected to serve for decades.
Senate Republicans resorted to extraordinary steps to overcome Democratic opposition to Mr Gorsuch, including changing longstanding Senate rules to prohibit the use of a procedural blockade called a filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. The rule change was dubbed the "nuclear option" because it was considered an extreme break from Senate tradition.
Mr Gorsuch joins fellow conservatives Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy on a court that also includes liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Democrats accused Mr Gorsuch of being so conservative as to be outside the judicial mainstream, favouring corporate interests over ordinary Americans in legal opinions, and displaying insufficient independence from Mr Trump.