Judge Neil Gorsuch is about to take his place as the newest Supreme Court .
The 49-year-old appeals court judge from Colorado is to be sworn in Monday after a bruising fight that saw Republicans change the rules for approving picks over the fierce objection of Democrats.
First up is a private ceremony in the high court’s Justices’ Conference Room, with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath prescribed by the Constitution. That will be followed by a public ceremony at the White , where Justice Anthony Kennedy is to administer the oath.
Gorsuch, who once clerked for Kennedy, will be the first member of the to serve alongside his former boss. He replaces the late Justice Antonin Scalia, part of the court’s conservative wing for nearly three decades before he died unexpectedly in February 2016.
In nominating Gorsuch, President Donald Trump said he fulfilled a pledge to pick someone in the mold of Scalia.
During 11 years on the federal appeals court in Denver, Gorsuch mirrored Scalia’s originalist approach to the law, interpreting the Constitution according to the meaning understood by those who drafted it. Like Scalia, he is a gifted writer with a flair for turning jargon into plain language people can understand.
Gorsuch will be seated just in time to hear one of the biggest cases of the term: a religious rights dispute over a Missouri law that bars churches from receiving public for general aid programs.
His 66-day confirmation process was swift, but bitterly divisive. It saw Senate Republicans trigger the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for all future high court nominees. The change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote with a simple majority.
Gorsuch won support from 51 of the chambers’ Republicans as well as three moderate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won last fall: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who has been recovering from back surgery, did not vote.
“This is a person of extraordinary credentials who will bring honor to the Supreme Court for many, many years to come,” said Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Most Democrats refused to support Gorsuch because they were still seething over the Republican blockade last year of President Barack Obama’s pick for the same seat, Merrick Garland. Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Garland, saying a high court replacement should be up to the next president.
The White House swearing-in ceremony is a departure from recent history. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were both sworn in publicly at the Supreme Court. Former Justice John Paul Stevens has argued that holding the public ceremony at the court helps drive the justice’s independence from the White House.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)