WASHINGTON — The Senate has cast enough votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal judge who could help cement a conservative majority on the bench for decades, to the Supreme Court.
The court has been operating with eight justices since the sudden death in February 2016 of Justice Antonin Scalia and a protracted fight over President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
Senate Republicans refused to consider Garland’s nomination until after the November election, and Trump’s surprise win meant a conservative would succeed Scalia.
Gorsuch’s confirmation essentially continues the ideological balance that existed before Scalia’s death, with four conservatives, four liberals and Justice Anthony Kennedy as a swing vote between the blocs. At the same time, several justices are over 70 years of age, and retirement rumors surrounding Kennedy could give Trump other opportunities during his presidency to add to the conservative bloc.