A few weeks ago, when a day of Senate hearings on Donald Trump’s nominee for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court ended on what was described as a “confrontational note,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats would filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and on Monday, they secured enough votes to do just that.
According to the Washington Post, this makes it all but certain that Republicans will fight back by changing the rules of the chamber to ensure a Gorsuch confirmation later this week.
Five more senators announced Monday that they would vote against Gorsuch, and that provided more than the 41 senators required to block a procedural vote.
At this point, either President Trump will have to withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination, or Senate Republicans will have to change the rules to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the Democratic opposition “a new low” and said that Gorsuch will be confirmed by Friday despite the likelihood of a filibuster. According to the Post, McConnell is ready to invoke “the nuclear option,” which is a change in rules that would allow Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority vote, and with 52 seats, Republicans have that simple majority.
Retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the first to invoke the nuclear option in 2013 when he was majority leader and allowed non-Supreme Court presidential appointments to be confirmed with a simple majority.
The Washington Post predicts that McConnell will be called upon to eliminate the 60-vote requirement in other instances, too, like budget bills or any legislation, and if that happens, bipartisan cooperation would be a thing of the past in the Senate.
From the Washington Post:
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.), Mark R. Warner (Va.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) indicated Monday that they would oppose Gorsuch and vote against cloture—the motion to end a filibuster that is required to hold an up-or-down confirmation vote.
During an hourslong committee hearing, Leahy criticized Gorsuch’s answers during his marathon confirmation hearing as “excruciatingly evasive.” He said that a GOP move to end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees would damage the Senate, but he argued that he had to vote his conscience, even if it pushes Republicans to change the rules.
“I cannot vote solely to protect an institution when the rights of hard-working Americans are at risk,” he said, “because I fear that the Senate I would be defending no longer exists.”
Four Democratic senators intend to vote to end the filibuster. Three of those senators—Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)—are the targets of a $10 million ad campaign by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which, according to the Post, is pressuring Democrats facing re-election next year in states won by Trump in November to vote for Gorsuch.
Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) said Monday that he would join Republicans in trying to end the filibuster, but did not say whether he would vote for Gorsuch. Bennet is the only Democratic senator opposing the filibuster who is not up for re-election in 2018.
On Sunday’s edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, McConnell said, “I don’t think the legislative filibuster is in danger.”
On the same program, Schumer said, “I don’t think there’s any thirst to change the legislative rules. Most Democrats and most Republicans have served in both the minority and the majority and know what it means.”
Read more at the Washington Post.