It’s official—the rules were changed, a 51-vote majority would suffice to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and 49-year-old Neil M. Gorsuch has officially been confirmed as the 113th justice of our nation’s highest judicial body, where he will sit, presumably, from now until the day he dies.
This is the final result of a process that began when Republicans refused to hold even a committee hearing for Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee, based on a rather flimsy argument that a president shouldn’t appoint a justice in an election year, despite heaps of examples of that exact outcome. In retaliation, Senate Democrats ran a successful filibuster against Gorsuch yesterday, to which their Republican counterparts responded by changing the rules so that 60 votes were no longer required to confirm. And today, the process ended with a 54-45 vote in favor of Gorsuch.
This so-called “nuclear option” worked, technically, but it also made it plain that a seat was stolen, and called the legitimacy of both the judicial and legislative branches into question—at a time when the executive branch is dealing with its own legitimacy issues. This is, without a doubt, a low point in the history of American politics.