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Gorsuch Confirmed

The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court Friday, elevating Donald Trump's nominee after a corrosive and partisan face-off that could have a profound and lasting impact for the Senate, the court, and America.

Vice President Mike Pence presided 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.

Gorsuch was supported by 51 of the chambers' Republicans as well as three moderate Democrats who are 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.

When he's sworn in, Gorsuch will restore the court's conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia's death.

The vote was a huge win for Trump, his biggest congressional victory to date, as well as for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who was instrumental in keeping Scalia's seat open after the justice's death in February of 2016. McConnell refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama's nominee.

When he's sworn in, Gorsuch will restore the court's conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia's death.

"He's an exceptional choice," McConnell said.

Democrats denounced the GOP's use of the so-called "nuclear option" to put Gorsuch on the court. Many Republicans weren't happy about it either, but they said, with much justification, that Democrats pushed them into taking action.

"I believe it will make this body a more partisan place," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

Gorsuch is expected to join the Court in time to hear its final cases of the term.

The Senate rules change, which determines how many votes a nominee needs to reach a final confirmation vote, will also apply to all future Supreme Court candidates. Trump predicted to reporters on Air Force One that "there could be as many as four" Supreme Court vacancies for him to fill in the next four years.

"In fact, under a certain scenario, there could even be more than that," Trump said. There is no way to know how many there will be, if any, but several justices are now quite old.

Even as they expressed indignation, lawmakers of both parties, pulled by fierce political forces on both the left and right, could not stop the confirmation rules change.

Democrats, apparently heedless of the political danger, staged a filibuster, denying Gorsuch the 60 votes needed to advance to a final vote under the old rules. Then McConnell raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.

Even as senior and establishment Republicans expressed their unease about the voting change, Mitch McConnell and some allies argued that all they were doing was returning to a time, not so long ago, when filibusters of judicial nominees were unusual.