WASHINGTON, D.C., April 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Senate approved a radical rules change today to allow Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to move to the final stage of being confirmed.
The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 48 to lower the number of votes that Gorsuch needs to be confirmed from 60 to 51. The Senate will likely vote on his confirmation tomorrow night.
The vote was along party lines.
Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, used the “nuclear option,” a rule change, so that Democrats couldn't filibuster Gorsuch. McConnell did this because Republicans didn't have the 60 needed votes to end debate (the filibuster). Democrats successfully blocked Gorsuch's nomination by voting against ending debate this morning. Without the “nuclear option,” Democrats would have been able to continue blocking Gorsuch's nomination.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, spoke against Gorsuch's nomination for more than 15 hours through Tuesday night. This wasn't a filibuster because it wasn't actually delaying anything. Abortion activists praised him for his marathon speech.
This is the first time the “nuclear option” has been used on a Supreme Court nominee. Democrats' actions are also an unprecedented attempt of a partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court justice. (A brief attempt at a filibuster on Justice Samuel Alito was made in 2006, but there weren't nearly enough votes for it to be successful.)
In 2013, Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, established a new precedent to use 51 votes to overcome a filibuster. In Reid's precedent in 2013 that eliminated the filibuster, it also applied to the lower courts and other appointments but not for the Supreme Court. Now, McConnell is eliminating it for the Supreme Court.
When Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, was Hillary Clinton's running mate, he said he'd be willing to change Senate rules to allow 51 votes rather than 60 to confirm a Democrat-nominated Supreme Court justice.
Throughout more than 20 hours of confirmation hearings, Gorsuch refused to say how he would rule in future cases, or what his personal opinion of current precedent is.
However, he explained why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects Hobby Lobby's owners from being forced by the government to violate their consciences.
While on the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch sided with the majority in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius. The majority ruled that Hobby Lobby shouldn't be forced to participate, even remotely, in the provision of birth control against its religious beliefs. Gorsuch dissented from the Tenth Circuit panel in Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell. The Tenth Circuit had ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor.
During his hearings, Gorsuch said same-sex “marriage” is “absolutely settled law.”
Gorsuch promised Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, that he will consider the facts if a 20-week abortion ban reaches the Supreme Court. He didn't offer his personal opinion on it.
During the hearings, abortion supporters expressed concern over a line Gorsuch wrote in The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: “the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.”
During day three of his confirmation hearings, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, asked Gorsuch whether the intentional taking of unborn life is wrong.
Gorsuch responded, “The Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person, for purposes of the 14th Amendment. That [decision] is the law of the land. I accept the law of the land.”
He hasn't authored or joined in any rulings that indicate his views specifically on abortion or same-sex “marriage,” but Gorsuch has ruled on cases pertaining to transsexualism and gender ideology. In these cases, defenders of life and family would find Gorsuch’s opinions to be encouraging.