Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
WASHINGTON — Amid a process poised to have a long-lasting impact on the U.S. Senate, Judge Neil Gorsuch secured confirmation Friday to serve as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Coloradan got the support of a majority of senators, including Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both had been vigorous supporters of his nomination since the night President Donald Trump announced the pick.
Conservatives hope Gorsuch will maintain the stances of the man he will replace, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February 2016 at a West Texas resort.
In a prepared statement after the 54-45 vote, Cornyn praised Gorsuch as extremely qualified for his new job.
"He is, in short, a distinguished jurist with an impeccable legal and academic record,” Cornyn said.
Cruz said that the Senate followed through on a promise made more than a year ago — after Justice Scalia passed away.
"Despite an unprecedented Democratic filibuster, today is a day that the Republican majority kept its promise to protect our fundamental rights, to protect free speech, to protect religious liberty, and to protect the Second Amendment," he said.
The drama leading up to Gorsuch's confirmation had less to do with his qualifications and more with a disintegration of coalition-building around Supreme Court nominations, particularly on the issue of abortion. Bipartisan Senate traditions surrounding high court nominations have been unraveling over the past 15 years.
Tensions escalated further over the past year, when the GOP majority in the Senate refused to hold hearings for then-President Barack Obama's pick to succeed Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland.
Democrats essentially retaliated with a filibuster against Gorsuch's nomination. Republicans responded with the elimination of the Supreme Court confirmation filibusters.
Both parties blamed the other side for the events leading to that rule change.
Cornyn and Cruz backed the successful GOP effort to eliminate the capacity for senators to filibuster a Supreme Court nomination. The move allowed Gorsuch to secure the confirmation with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to shut down a filibuster.
Senators are scheduled for a Friday briefing on Trump's use of force in Syria, and then they will head back to their states for a two-week Easter and Passover recess. Members of the U.S. House left Washington for the break on Thursday.
Read more of our related coverage:
- A senator's ability to filibuster a U.S. Supreme Court nominee ended on Thursday.
- U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, now has one of the most sensitive assignments in Congress.