US Senate Republicans on Thursday crushed a Democratic blockade of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee in a fierce partisan brawl.
The Senate approved a rule change dubbed the "nuclear option" to allow for conservative judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation by Friday.
With ideological control of the nation's highest court at stake, the Republican-led Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to change its long-standing rules in order to prohibit a procedural tactic called a filibuster against Supreme Court nominees.
That came after Republicans failed by a 55-45 tally to muster the 60-vote super-majority needed to end the Democratic blockade.
The Senate's action paved the way to confirm Gorsuch by simple majority, with a vote expected at roughly 2399 GMT on Friday.
Republicans control the Senate 52-48. The rule change was called the "nuclear option" because it was considered an extreme break with Senate tradition.
Trump had encouraged Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear."
First major victory
Confirmation of Gorsuch would represent Trump's first major victory since taking office on Jan. 20, after setbacks on healthcare legislation and his blocked order to prevent people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.
"This will be the first and last partisan filibuster of the Supreme Court," McConnell said on the Senate floor, accusing Democrats of trying to inflict political damage on Trump and to keep more conservatives from joining the high court.
"In 20 or 30 or 40 years, we will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court, a day when we irrevocably moved further away from the principles our founders intended for these institutions: principles of bipartisanship, moderation and consensus," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Democrats accuse Gorsuch of being so conservative as to be outside the judicial mainstream, favouring corporate interests over ordinary Americans in legal opinions, and displaying insufficient independence from Trump.
"This isn't really about the nominee anyway," McConnell said.