Senate Democrats secured enough votes to sustain a filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, ensuring Republicans will abolish cloture votes on high court nominees — the so-called nuclear option.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware became the 41st Democrat to publicly commit to blocking Gorsuch’s nomination before it reaches the Senate floor Monday afternoon. Current Senate rules require the chamber to hold a procedural vote closing debate on a nomination or piece of legislation. The vote requires the support of 60 senators — a group of 41 senators or more can permanently block the Senate from taking action on a particular matter.
Coons told the panel that he was reluctant to support the filibuster, and hoped the parties would broker a deal to avoid abolishing it for Supreme Court nominees.
“The principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling, and we are poised to hasten that this week,” he said.
Another key Democrat on the panel, Sen. Patrick Leahy, also announced he would back the effort to block Gorsuch. Leahy, a Senate veteran with a strong institutionalist streak, previously expressed recalcitrance about such an aggressive maneuver — only four Supreme Court nominees have been filibustered since the Truman administration.
“I am not inclined to filibuster, even though I’m not inclined to vote for him,” he told local media last week.
But by Monday, he announced he had settled on a decision.
“I have often said that the Senate, at its best, can be the conscience of the nation,” he said. “I must now vote my conscience, both today and later this week.”
Some members of the body have expressed interest in brokering a deal between the parties, as occurred during the George W. Bush administration when the “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan group of 14 senators, struck an accord on confirming Bush’s judicial nominees without abolishing the filibuster. Three members of the “gang,” including GOP Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, are still serving in Congress.
Late last week, Bloomberg Politics reported that McCain was having informal conversations with Democrats about reaching an agreement mirroring the 2005 deal. McCain quickly clarified he was not actively seeking a deal and did not ultimately believe one could be reached.
“No, I’m not reaching out to the Democrats,” McCain told The Daily Caller’s Kerry Picket. “I’ve had conversations with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. That’s all. There’s no gang. There’s no negotiations. Just having some conversations. No deal. No negotiations.”
Gorsuch is almost guaranteed to win the confirmation vote. Fifty-five senators — including all 52 Republicans and three Democrats, have announced they will support his nomination once it reaches the floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday that the manner in which Gorsuch is confirmed is up to the Democratic caucus.
“What I’m telling you is that Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed,” he said. “The way in which that occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority.”
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