Nina Totenberg

With a nasty and partisan confirmation battle behind him, Justice Neil Gorsuch took his seat on the nation's highest court on Monday and quickly proved himself to be an active, persistent questioner.

As the court buzzer sounded, Gorsuch emerged from behind the red velvet curtains with his eight colleagues and took his seat at the far right of the bench, no pun intended. (That's where the most junior justice sits, regardless of his or her politics.)

Updated at 2:47 p.m. ET

Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed Friday as the 113th justice to serve on the nation's highest court. The final vote was 54-45, mostly along party lines.

Senate Democrats on Monday secured the votes needed to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. This sets up a political fight that will substantially change the way the Senate considers future high court nominees.

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Political predictions are a dangerous business, especially this year. But it does look as though one way or another, the U.S. Senate will vote to confirm the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. The open question is how much damage Democrats will do to their own long game in the process.

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For more now, we turn to NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Hey there, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And now we are joined by NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She watched the hearing today. Hi there, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi there.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are the stuff of novels and movies, but they are the stuff of reality TV, too.

For critics of the nominee — any nominee — the object is drama, even confrontation. For defenders of the nominee, the object is boredom. A confirmation hearing with no sparks and no controversy is a surefire path to a seat on the court.

So far, Gorsuch critics have been having difficulty getting traction — having been trumped, as it were, by other controversies. But there has been plenty going on behind the scenes.

At most Supreme Court confirmation hearings, questions focus on hot-button social issues — abortion, affirmative action, same-sex marriage — and the hearings next week on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be no exception.

But senators are also likely to spend a lot of time examining the nominee's views on federal regulations — of the environment, health and safety laws for workers, and laws on consumer rights and business.

In question is a doctrine that Gorsuch has criticized but that also once helped his mother.

The Chevron doctrine

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to open hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the game of confirmation cat and mouse is about to begin. Senators will try to get a fix on Gorsuch's legal views — and the nominee will try to say as little as possible.

Supreme Court scholars and practitioners on the right and left may disagree about whether they want to see Gorsuch confirmed, but in general there is little doubt about the nominee's conservatism. Indeed, his conservative pedigree is the reason he was picked.

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