Over the next 48 hours, the nation is likely going to change if the Senate Republicans change the rules to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, BuzzFeed News reports. For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, confirming a conservative Supreme Court justice after having kept a vacancy open for President Trump to be able to nominate Gorsuch is one of the most of important roles he and the Senate can play. If the Senate allows judges to be confirmed on a majority vote, it would seriously shift how judges are picked to sit on the highest court in the land.
It could change the Supreme Court as an institution. Over nearly 14 months, since Justice Antonin Scalia died, the court has functioned with eight justices. In all of that time, the conservative justices have only managed to secure a win in a closely divided case one time. The case — Utah v. Strieff — was about the effects of unconstitutional police stops and. The decision, making it easier for police to get evidence admitted after an unconstitutional stop, was the only 5-3 split of the court where the conservatives — joined in the majority by Justice Stephen Breyer — took the upper-hand. The opposite, the four liberal justices winning over one or more conservatives, happened with more or less frequency over the past year — in abortion, affirmative action, judicial recusal, and death penalty cases. When conservatives couldn’t manage to win over any of the liberal justices and liberals couldn’t secure Justice Anthony Kennedy or any other justices’ votes, the court was split 4-4. Such decisions affirm the lower court but do not set precedent. If Gorsuch is confirmed, those cases could come back and — if he votes with the conservatives as expected — the conservatives could get more 5-4 wins.