DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) – Republicans invoked the “nuclear option” rewriting the chamber’s rules to allow Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch to ascend to the Supreme Court.
Furious Democrats objected until the end, but their efforts to block the nomination failed. First Democrats mounted a filibuster in an effort to block Gorsuch by denying him the 60 votes needed to advance to a final vote.
Then Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
McConnell was overruled, but appealed the ruling. And on that he prevailed on a 52-48 party line vote. The 60-vote filibuster requirement on Supreme Court nominees was effectively gone.
A final confirmation vote on Gorsuch is expected Friday and he could then be sworn in in time to take his seat on the court later this month and hear the final cases of the term.
The maneuvering played out with much hand-wringing from all sides about the future of the Senate, as well as unusually bitter accusations and counter-accusations as each side blamed the other. The rules change is known as the “nuclear option” because of its far-reaching implications.
McConnell accused Democrats of forcing his hand by trying to filibuster a highly qualified nominee in Gorsuch, 49, a 10-year veteran of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver with a consistently conservative record. McConnell vowed that the rules change would block the Gorsuch filibuster, and all future ones, a change many lawmakers lamented could lead to an even more polarized Senate, court and country.
“This will be the first, and last, partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee,” McConnell declared. “This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet, and it cannot and will not stand.”
Senators on both sides of the aisle lamented the trajectory they were on, though they themselves were in position to prevent it from happening and failed to do so.
“We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.
Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said roughly 10 senators of both parties worked over the weekend to come up with a deal to stave off the “nuclear option” but couldn’t come to agreement.
In 2005, a bipartisan deal headed off GOP plans to remove the filibuster barrier for lower-court nominees, but in 2013 Democrats took the step, leaving the filibuster in place only for Supreme Court justices.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, addressing the Senate Wednesday night pledging his support for the nominee, outlined the history of the judicial confirmation process, including 30 years of Democrat obstruction of the confirmation process and what he called countless demonstrations of bad faith in blocking, stalling and smearing Republican nominees throughout the judicial confirmation process.
Watch the video: Hatch’s outline of the history of the confirmation process
With the final vote set for Friday, Gorsuch counts 55 supporters in the Senate: the 52 Republicans, along with three moderate Democrats from states that Trump won last November — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. A fourth Senate Democrat, Michael Bennet from Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado, refused to join in the filibuster but announced Thursday he would vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Written by ERICA WERNER, AP Congressional Correspondent. Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.