Sens. Hatch, Lee respond to Gorsuch confirmation following ‘nuclear option’

In this March 21, 2017, file photo, Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch explains mutton busting, an event held at rodeos similar to bull riding or bronc riding, in which children ride or race sheep, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. | Associated Press photo by Susan Walsh, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to become the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court Friday, elevating Donald Trump’s nominee following a corrosive partisan confrontation that could have lasting impacts for the Senate and the court. In Utah, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee released statements lauding the confirmation of Gorsuch.

Vice President Mike Pence was presiding as the Senate voted 54-45 in favor of Gorsuch, a 49-year-old veteran of the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver whose rulings make him an intellectual heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he will fill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. signals a thumbs-up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 6, 2017, after he led the GOP majority to change Senate rules and lower the vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to a simple majority in order to advance Neil Gorsuch to a confirmation vote. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

Gorsuch won support from 51 of the chambers’ Republicans as well as three moderate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won last fall: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia did not vote.

The outcome was a major win for Trump, his biggest congressional victory to date, as well as for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who kept Scalia’s seat open after the justice’s death in February 2016. McConnell refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominee.

After he is sworn in, Gorsuch will restore the court’s conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia’s death.

Republicans exulted in the victory.

“He’s an exceptional choice,” McConnell said.

Democrats denounced the GOP’s use of what both sides dubbed the “nuclear option” to put Gorsuch on the court, calling it an epic power grab that would further corrode politics in Congress, the courts and the United States. Many Republicans bemoaned reaching that point, too, but they blamed Democrats for pushing them to it.

Read more: Senate GOP exercises ‘nuclear option’ allowing confirmation of Gorsuch to proceed

“I believe it will make this body a more partisan place,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “It will make the cooling saucer of the Senate considerably hotter, and I believe it will make the Supreme Court a more partisan place.”

Utah’s senators both expressed support for the nomination.

In a statement from Hatch’s office, the senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed disappointment in the process but ultimately called Gorsuch a “worthy successor to the great Justice Scalia.” Hatch had previously spoken on the Democrats’ threat to filibuster the nomination.

In Friday’s statement, Hatch said:

In my time in the Senate, I have had the distinct honor of playing a key role in the confirmation of fourteen Supreme Court nominees. In all that time, I have never seen a better nominee than Judge Neil Gorsuch. Not only does he possess unquestionably impressive credentials, but he has also demonstrated a deep and abiding understanding of the proper role of a judge under the Constitution. While I am disappointed that partisan politics interfered with the Senate’s consideration of a nominee who deserved the support of all 100 senators, I am extraordinarily pleased that Judge Gorsuch will now take a seat on the highest court in the land. … He will do the nation proud.

Lee cited his own experiences with Gorsuch in a similar statement of support.

Judge Gorsuch is one of, if not the, most qualified Supreme Court nominees in our nation’s history. It was a privilege to argue in front of him when he was on the 10th circuit, and it was an honor to vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court. I am confident he will be a great successor to Justice Scalia.

Gorsuch is expected to be sworn in within days, in time to hear the final cases of the term. He was nominated by Trump shortly after the January inauguration.

Written by ERICA WERNER, AP Congressional Correspondent.

St. George News contributed to this report from information provided by the Offices of Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Mary Clare Jalonick also contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press as AP portions. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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