Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court on Friday, Apr. 7.
“We’re going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed,” McConnell told reporters. “There will be an opportunity for the Democrats to invoke cloture. We’ll see where that ends. The Democratic Leader who will be out here shortly says that we will not get cloture, so that is a good question to ask him. But it’ll be really up to them how the process to confirm Judge Gorsuch goes forward.”
How exactly Gorsuch might be confirmed is unclear. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would lead a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination after his confirmation hearings concluded earlier in March. As such, Republicans will need the support of 60 senators to prevail on a procedural vote moving Gorsuch’s nomination to the floor. At 52 members, the GOP needs to attract eight Democrats to their side.
It’s not clear which Democrats, if any, would be willing to buck party leadership and back Republicans on the procedural vote — but the GOP can still confirm Gorsuch by changing the rules of the chamber to abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, an alternative often referred to as the “nuclear option.”
Senate Democrats abolished the filibuster for lower court judges and executive branch nominees at former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s direction in 2013.
To keep the filibuster in place for future confirmation battles, some moderate Democrats may seek a deal with Republican senators, wherein they would join with the GOP to confirm Gorsuch on the condition the filibuster is not abolished.
Though a handful of Republican veterans in the Senate — like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins — might be recalcitrant to abolish the filibuster and further erode the norms of a chamber oriented towards consensus, McConnell’s comments strongly suggest he is confident the Republican caucus will be behind the move.
Should Gorsuch win confirmation next week, he could join the Supreme Court in time to participate in the April sitting, likely the last time the justices will hear arguments until the autumn. The high court will hear its first case that month on Monday, Apr. 17.
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