WASHINGTON — Republicans signaled Monday they are ready to change the rules of the filibuster if Democrats prevent an up or down vote of Donald Trump’s nominee.
Called the “nuclear option,” the move to change the rules of the filibuster appear to be a long time coming.
Following a party line vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee that advanced Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to a full vote in the Senate Friday, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters: “If the Democrats persist in this foolish filibuster, the Senate majority will have no choice but return to the standard that has prevailed for over two centuries in the Senate, which is confirming Supreme Court Justices by a majority.”
After Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California, Mark Warner of Virginia and Patrick Leahy of Vermont announcing Monday they would not support Gorsuch, Democrats reached the 41 votes they necessary to stop the advancement of Gorsuch’s nomination under present Senate rules.
“If we have to, we will change the rules,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said during the committee meeting after Feinstein and Leahy made their remarks. “It looks like we’re going to have to.”
Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, only need a simple majority to change the rules to do away with a 60-vote requirement to move past debate and then hold a final confirmation vote.
Democrats began partisan filibustering judicial nominees with Bush’s appointment of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit in 2003. The Democrats resorted to the tactic after losing control of the upper chamber in 2002 and could no longer stall nominees.
By 2006 the threat of a filibuster eventually failed with George W. Bush nominee Samuel Alito after a bipartisan group of senators struck a deal on how many of the then-president’s nominees would be allowed to go through.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued on Fox News Sunday this weekend, “I think it is noteworthy that no Supreme Court justice has ever in the history of our country been stopped by a partisan filibuster- ever.”
He went on to say, “Judge Gorsuch deserves to be confirmed. [He is] unanimously well-qualified [as described] by the American Bar Association. My counterpart Senator Schumer once called it the ‘gold standard.’ [His rulings were] in the majority 99 percent of the time, 97 percent of his rulings were unanimous, only reversed one time in a case in which he participated by the Supreme Court.”
He added, “[T]hat’s why he will ultimately be confirmed. Exactly how that happens will be up to our Democratic colleagues.”