ST. GEORGE — The Senate is headed for a tense showdown over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch as Republicans move toward confirmation of the nominee and Democrats threaten filibuster.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans are determined to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch within the week. But to do so, they will likely have to override Democratic objections and unilaterally change Senate rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber, instead of the 60-voter threshold.
Though it may seem arcane, the approach is known in Congress as the “nuclear option” because it strikes at the heart of the Senate’s traditions of bipartisanship and collegiality.
It would allow all future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed without regard to the objections of the minority party.
Changing Senate rules would not be unprecedented. In 2013, Democrats were in the majority and upset about appellate court nominees getting blocked. They pushed through a rules change lowering the vote threshold on all nominees except for the Supreme Court from 60 to a simple majority.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday in response to Senate Democrats’ threat to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination. After commending the nominee to the Senate at length, Hatch decried Democrats’ attempts to mask what would be the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in the history of the United States. He said:
Next week, the Judiciary Committee will report the Gorsuch nomination to the Senate floor, where the same tactics will be in full view. Democrats are already claiming that the threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees is 60 votes. They may wish this were the rule, at least for Republican nominees, but they know that’s not true.
Democrats have been playing this game for years, embracing one standard when it suits them only to do an about-face later. It may be just a coincidence, but the flip-flopping follows an eerily similar pattern to election cycles when different parties control the White House. But, like I said, that may be just a coincidence.
What I do know is that Senator Schumer voted 25 times to filibuster judicial nominees of President George W. Bush. Then, when nomination filibusters had declined under President Obama, he voted to abolish them. Now, with a Republican again in the White House, he’s back on the filibuster train. He was against judicial filibusters before he was for them before he was against them.
Why not have a vigorous debate followed by an up or down vote? The 1987 nomination of Robert Bork was controversial yet there was no cloture vote, even though he was defeated. The 1991 nomination of Clarence Thomas was controversial yet there was no cloture vote, even though he was confirmed.
Republicans have never even attempted a partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. Most recently, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid said in 2010 that he would file cloture on the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. Republican leaders, including our former colleague Senator Jeff Sessions, told him that filing cloture would be completely unnecessary.
The truth is that no Supreme Court nominee has ever been defeated by a partisan filibuster. The only reason Democrats are choosing to push us in that direction is that their left-wing groups have told them to do so.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York warned against the rules change in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, arguing that Republicans would be the ones to blame if it does occur.
“Senate Republicans are acting like if Gorsuch doesn’t get 60 votes they have no choice but to change the rules,” Schumer said. “That is bunk.”
Schumer’s comments came after Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first two Democrats to announce their support for Gorsuch, and the only ones so far, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Manchin said in a statement, “I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”
Written by MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press, and ERICA WERNER, Associated Press. St. George News contributed to this report from information provided by the Offices of Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.and Copyright 2017 The Associated Press as to portions it contributed. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.