Since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago, the high court's bench has been split 4-4 between Republican and Democrat appointees.
That will change soon after the likely installation of Neil Gorsuch. President Donald Trump's nominee will face congressional scrutiny this week as his confirmation hearing gets underway.
Gorsuch, who currently serves as a federal judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee starting Monday. Gorsuch is seen as a natural successor to Scalia, with a similar judicial ideology of adhering closely to the Constitution's text and protecting business interests.
The Supreme Court nominee has twice ruled against the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. In 2013, he sided with Hobby Lobby and ruled businesses should not be required to cover contraception under employer-sponsored health plans if it conflicts with company owners' religious beliefs. The Supreme Court also ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor in a 5-4 vote.
Gorsuch's opinions on contraception and assisted-suicide cases hint that he also opposes abortion rights. Trump pledged he would nominate a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court confirmation hearings have typically homed in on nominees' stances on hot-button social issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. But Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, have said they will focus more on Gorsuch's pro-business record and judicial independence.
Many Democrats are still angry that GOP colleagues refused to vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for Scalia's vacancy, Merrick Garland.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to confirm Gorsuch to his new post by the Easter recess, despite Democrats' resistance. McConnell will need to secure 60 Senate votes—more than the 52 Republican majority—to secure the confirmation without invoking the so-called nuclear option.