By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS
WASHINGTON – Neil M. Gorsuch was sworn in Monday as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court, placing a devoted conservative in the seat once occupied by Justice Antonin Scalia and handing President Donald Trump a victory in his push to shape the court for decades to come.
Gorsuch, 49, took the oath in the White House Rose Garden with Trump looking on. It was the fulfillment of a vital campaign promise made by Trump – one that allayed the reservations of many Republican Party stalwarts, who were otherwise repelled by his candidacy – to make the appointment of a strict conservative to the Supreme Court a top priority.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 80, often a swing vote who holds the balance of power on the court, presided, a reminder that Gorsuch’s ascendance may not be this president’s final chance to influence the direction of the high court.
The Rose Garden ceremony, on a sun-soaked spring day, recalled one just over a year ago in which President Barack Obama announced his selection of Judge Merrick B. Garland to succeed Scalia. Senate Republicans quickly declared, however, that they would not consider Garland’s nomination, saying the choice of the next justice should belong to the next president.
Gorsuch’s confirmation process, too, was marred by an extraordinary degree of partisanship. After Democrats waged a filibuster against him, making it impossible to reach the 60 votes required to advance his nomination to a final vote, Republicans invoked the so-called nuclear option, lowering the threshold on Supreme Court nominations to a simple majority vote.