WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moderate Republicans ready to be persuaded if he needs 51 votes to change the rules to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch should Democrats filibuster his nomination next week.
If McConnell changes the rules of the Senate, a simple majority would only be needed to confirm Gorsuch to the high court — as opposed to 60 votes to end debate on the nominee before the final simple majority up or down approval vote.
Republicans skeptical of changing the rules of the filibuster in the past are now open to potential changes of the rules to the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees since former Democratic leader Harry Reid changed it for lower court nominees in 2013.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, an original member of the 2006 bipartisan “gang of 14” that struck a deal with Democrats to keep the filibuster in place, responded to reporters Tuesday when asked if she was an “absolute no” on ever changing the filibuster rules for Supreme Court nominees.
“No that’s not my position. My position is, given the extremely strong arguments — again and the history of not filibustering Supreme Court justices as is evidenced by the fact that two of the current justices are on the court having been confirmed with fewer than 60 votes, there should not be a filibuster. There are no grounds for a filibuster.”
Collins was pressed further and she eventually replied, “I’m hoping we’re not going to get to that point.”
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, another member of the original gang of 14, told The Daily Caller on Monday, “I place some confidence in the judgment of our leadership. We’ll make the decision when the time comes.”
McCain confirmed there was no move afoot to form another “gang” to strike a deal with Democrats to keep the filibuster in place.
The final original remaining gang of 14 member, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, is ready to do away with the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch.
“I thought that the Gang of 14 was working and Harry Reid just chose to throw it over in 2013 and I don’t. I don’t. I don’t see a desire. After a while you lose trust. You know. The 2013 rules change to me,” Graham told TheDC.
He added, “[The Democrats] wanted to stack the D.C. Circuit Court. And Harry Reid said before the election when we all thought Trump was going to lose that he was going to change the rules.”
Other moderate Republicans would not say they were “absolute nos” on changing the filibuster if necessary.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told TheDC, “No, not an absolute no. We’ll deal with it if it comes to it.”
South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune would only say, “I’m for confirming the judge.”
“I hope we can avoid it. But that’s not something I’d be an absolute ‘no’ with. It depends,” Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman told TheDC.
Finally, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey would only tell TheDC, “We’re going to confirm Neil Gorsuch one way or another.