Democrats Now Have Enough Votes to Filibuster Neil Gorsuch Nomination

Democrats Now Have Enough Votes to Filibuster Neil Gorsuch Nomination

Democrats on Monday amassed enough support to block a U.S. Senate confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but Republicans vowed to change the Senate rules to ensure the conservative judge gets the lifetime job.

As the Judiciary Committee moved toward sending Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, Senator Christopher Coons became the 41st Democrat to announce support for a procedural hurdle called a filibuster requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to allow a confirmation vote.

But Republican Senate leaders insist Gorsuch will be confirmed on the Senate floor on Friday regardless of what the Democrats do, even if they have to change long-standing Senate rules.

In the face of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be expected to force a confirmation vote by having the Senate change its rules and allow for a simple majority vote for confirmation of Supreme Court justices, a move sometimes called the “nuclear option” that Trump has urged.

Judiciary Committee Republicans blasted Democrats for pursuing what they called the first “partisan filibuster” of a Supreme Court nominee – there was a successful bipartisan filibuster five decades ago against a Democratic president’s nominee – and said it would come to naught because of the threatened rule change.

Senate Republicans last year refused to even consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Trump has selected Gorsuch to fill.

“Democrats, including me, are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year. But the traditions and principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week,” Coons said.

Coons left room for a compromise, in which Democrats would allow the vote to go ahead in return for Republicans agreeing to a 60-vote threshold for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

“So for my part, I hope and pray that we can yet find a way together to find a solution,” Coons added.

Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat high court’s conservative majority, fulfilling one of Trump’s top campaign promises. Trump in January nominated Gorsuch, a conservative appeals court judge from Colorado, to the lifetime job as a justice.

Neil Gorsuch

The 60-vote super-majority threshold that gives the minority party power to hold up the majority party has over the decades forced the Senate to try to achieve bipartisanship in legislation and in presidential appointments.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican committee member, expressed regret that his party would be forced to change the Senate rules and said the “damage done to the Senate’s going to be real.”

“If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we’re going to have to. I hate that. I really, really do,” Graham said.

“Judge Gorsuch is by any measure a superbly qualified nominee,” added Senator Orrin Hatch, a committee Republican. “He will be impartial, fair and open-minded.”

While Gorsuch’s opponents would fight a Senate rule change, it was the Democrats who in 2013 changed the Senate rules to limit filibusters after Republicans used the procedure against appeals court nominees selected by Obama. The Senate, then led by Democrats, barred filibusters for executive branch nominees and federal judges aside from Supreme Court justices. Even if Republicans do change the rules, legislation, as opposed to appointments, would still need to meet a 60-vote threshold.

 

(Original Story by Reuters)