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Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court after bitter partisan process

The Senate voted Friday to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court following a bitter partisan process, possibly reshaping the ideology of the top American court for decades.

With Vice President Mike Pence presiding, the chamber voted 54-45 to make the 49-year-old conservative appeals judge an associate justice. Three Democrats up for re-election in red states next year — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — backed Gorsuch's confirmation.

A day after Republicans changed Senate rules to override a Democratic filibuster, the chamber filled the seat that's been vacant since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. On Thursday, the Senate took the "nuclear option" to advance Gorsuch's nomination with only a simple majority vote.

Judge Neil Gorsuch
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Judge Neil Gorsuch

Democrats raised concerns that Gorsuch could be too friendly to corporations and may allow limits on political contributions to erode. They questioned whether he could make decisions independent of Trump, a charge Gorsuch disputed in his hearings.

"I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone," Gorsuch said last month. "And I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who's doing the asking."

Many Democrats also said he was evasive when answering questions in his confirmation hearing. He did not hint how he might rule on potential cases or past cases.

Republicans' decision not to hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, whom then-President Barack Obama nominated for the seat during last year, also drove some of the partisan entrenchment against Gorsuch.

Some Republicans argued that Democrats gave no real justification of why Gorsuch is not qualified for the court, beyond the fact that he was not Garland.

In a statement following the confirmation, Trump said Gorsuch's "intellect, unparalleled integrity and record of independence makes him the perfect choice to serve on the nation's highest court."