It was a terribly sad day for our country and justice in America, as Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. They started this partisan practice when they were in the minority, then blew it up when they were in the majority.
Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg are both in their 80s and Justice Stephen Breyer is 78, raising concern among Democrats that Trump may have another opportunity to move the court in a more definitive conservative direction.
Chief Justice John Roberts has said that the appointment to the cafeteria committee has another function for a new justice.
The confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch essentially maintains the ideological balance of the court with four reliable liberal votes, four reliable conservative votes and the swing vote of Anthony Kennedy, for whom Justice Gorsuch once clerked.
President George H. Bush introduces Judge Clarence Thomas, left, as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall during a press conference July 1, 1991, at his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
But! There's at least one perk to being the newest guy or gal on the block.
Democrats would have avoided that outcome simply by agreeing to a vote on the Gorsuch nomination. Some Democrats had wanted to preserve the filibuster option for a future nominee, saying Judge Gorsuch - who will fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia - wasn't worth the fight because he won't tip the court balance. The committee voted 11-9 along party lines to advance his nomination.
The position had sat vacant for 13 months because Republicans, refuting the spirit of the Constitution, had refused to consider President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. Democrats will count themselves fortunate if they can hold Republicans to 59 seats in the next Congress.
At a fireside chat at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs last August, Kagan gave Gorsuch-then on Donald Trump's list of possible high court picks should he be elected president-a glimpse of the court's inner workings. And in exchange for that, let's lower the filibuster margin for the Supreme Court to 56.
Gorsuch has degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford universities.
But as an acolyte of Scalia whose rulings have skewed conservative on most issues, Gorsuch picked up almost unanimous opposition from Democrats and their liberal allies, who were willing to give up filibuster rights now rather than waiting for a potential second Trump nomination.
Kagan said the role involved an important function in grounding junior justices: "I think this is a way to kind of humble people".
Petitions from challengers seeking to have their cases heard in the 2017 term that begins in October include a potpourri of contentious issues, including whether concealed guns can be carried in public, whether states can further restrict voting rights, and whether merchants with religious objections can refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.