More than a year after Justice Antonin Scalia's death, the Supreme Court returned to having its full membership of nine judges after Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch took the constitutional oath on Monday. The ceremony came only after Senate Republicans, who did not succeed in reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to confirm Gorsuch last week, implemented the "nuclear option," to lower the necessary votes to 51.
After taking the constitutional oath in a private ceremony, the Gorsuch took the judicial oath — an oath only demanded of Supreme Court justices — at a public ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, where he was introduced by President Trump, who made sure to speak about the "optimism" sweeping the nation recently.
"I've always heard that the most important thing that a president can do is appoint people — hopefully great people, like this appointment — to the United States Supreme Court, and I can say, this is a great honor," said the president. Reportedly under pressure to brand the beginning of his administration as successful, he added, "And I got it done in the first 100 days! You think that's easy?"
He continued, "I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion, and the decisions you make will protect our Constitution today and for many generations of Americans to come,"
Justice Kennedy, a mentor of Gorsuch's, gave a speech congratulating the judge and then proceeded to administer the oath.
Justice Kennedy administers the judicial oath of office to Neil Gorsuch pic.twitter.com/rNHnMTFqNw— POLITICO (@politico) April 10, 2017
An emotional Gorsuch then took to the podium for his speech, in which he thanked the president, Mitch McConnell, and a long list of other supporters who've pushed for his confirmation over the past three months. "I promise you that I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant to the Constitution and laws of this great nation," he said.
Even before Gorsuch's nomination, Senate Republicans and Democrats were in a tense battle over the filling of late Justice Scalia's seat. After President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, Republicans announced that they planned to hold no hearings or votes on a Supreme Court nomination until Jan. 20 of this year, by which point Garland's nomination would have already expired.
Given Trump's vows to appoint a judge who would overturn Roe v. Wade, Gorsuch's generally conservative judicial record, and the fact that his confirmation would put all three branches of government under Republican control, Democrats were expectedly determined to block Gorsuch's road to the Supreme Court by all possible methods.
The Democrats' threat to filibuster Gorsuch's confirmation coupled with the Republican response of using the nuclear option bodes an even more bitter battle for future justices. "The next one, I mean I expect Armageddon," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.