Judge Neil Gorsuch failed to secure the 60 votes needed to advance his confirmation in an earlier vote - marking the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in decades. Maryland's two Democratic senators - Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen - both voted to block Gorsuch, and also opposed the rules change.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and Judiciary Committee chair who played a key role in the fight, cast blame on Senate Democrats, emphasizing in a floor speech Thursday that they were engaging in the "first partisan filibuster in US history". Rather than voting on Gorsuch, he said, "We should be celebrating the one-year anniversary of Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court".
The Republican-led Senate on Friday gave Donald Trump the biggest triumph of his young presidency, confirming his Supreme Court nominee over stout Democratic opposition and restoring a conservative majority on the highest USA judicial body.
They are also angry that Senate Republicans previous year refused to consider former Democratic President Barack Obama's nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, the same seat Gorsuch has been named to fill.
"We Democrats have given Justice Gorsuch a fair process, something Merrick Garland was denied", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY.
Senate Republicans sold out their future to get Gorsuch confirmed, which means that they won the battle, but Democrats won the war to dismantle the tools of future Republican obstruction.
Friday's vote won't put Gorsuch on the high court immediately.
In the face of Republican filibusters of Obama appointments, they barred filibusters for executive branch nominees and federal judges aside from Supreme Court justices but still allowed it for Supreme Court nominees and legislation. Among them, he said, are Gorsuch's votes for corporate interests over average Americans, his ties to President Trump and his "deeply-held, far-right, special-interest judicial philosophy that is far outside the mainstream".
Some senators fear that the next to go could be the legislative filibuster, one of the last remaining mechanisms to force bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill.
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Republicans noted that Democrats first invoked the "nuclear option".
Ending the filibuster also would make it easier for future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed when the president and Senate leadership belong to the same party.
Gorsuch replaces another conservative, so his appointment does not dramatically alter the ideological makeup of the court.
The bigger change could come with the next vacancy, which court-watchers say is likely among the liberal justices, giving Mr. Trump a chance to shape the court by picking a conservative.
With the final vote set for Friday, Gorsuch counts 55 supporters in the Senate: the 52 Republicans, along with three moderate Democrats from states that Trump won last November - Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Gorsuch is a veteran of Denver's 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals with a history of conservative rulings that make him an intellectual heir to Scalia.
After witnessing the grueling confirmation process for Judge Neil Gorsuch, it may be hard to believe people have begged off a seat on the Supreme Court.
After he is sworn in, Gorsuch will restore the court's conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia's death. Even Clarence Thomas got onto the court without a filibuster despite highly contentious confirmation hearings involving sexual harassment claims. That rule was changed in 1975 to cut down on the number of filibusters.
The White House said, however, it appears that the Democrats made a decision to oppose Gorsuch "before he was even nominated".