Washington, April 7 (IANS) The US Senate on Friday confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the ninth justice of the US Supreme Court. The vote comes after the majority Republicans changed the rules to abolish the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees, in order to overcome opposition from Democrats.
The federal judge from Colorado was nominated by President Donald Trump in February, to fill the seat vacated by last year's death of Justice Antonin Scalia, CNN reported.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) cast the decisive 51st vote in favour of the nomination. The final vote count was 54 in favour and 45 opposed.
Democrats sought to block Gorsuch's appointment by mustering 41 votes against the motion to end debate, known as closure.
On Thursday, Republican leadership then moved to change the rules for Supreme Court nominees, exercising what has been called the "nuclear option". Closure was eliminated in 2013 for judicial and executive appointments by what was then the Democratic majority.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) justified the "nuclear" move by accusing the Democrats of double standards and wanting to block Gorsuch simply because he was a conservative-leaning judge nominated by Trump.
Gorsuch served as a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, and becomes the first person confirmed to the Supreme Court to serve beside the justice for whom he clerked.
Democrats called Gorsuch too "extreme" and demanded a "more mainstream candidate".
Eliminating the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court justices amounted to undoing the "the guardrail of our democracy", said the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).