Republican lawmakers in the Senate rewrote chamber rules, using the “nuclear option,” to clear the way for President Trump’s choice for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, possibly setting a new precedent for the way the legislators operate.
Angry Democrats tried to block Gorsuch from moving forward with a filibuster in order to stop him from getting the traditional 60 votes needed to advance for a final Senate vote. But Sen. Mitch McConnell called a point of order and suggested that the nominee should advance through a simple majority. He was overruled but appealed, and won on a 52-48 party line vote, which basically eliminates the 60 vote requirement.
“We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
But McConnell said that he was forced to take the extreme measure because of Democrats unwillingness to work with him.
“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.”
The Senate is expected to take a final confirmation vote on Gorsuch on Friday. He could be sworn in quickly enough to take his seat on the court later this month.
Democrats were denied a chance to place President Obama’s choice for the high court Judge Merrick Garland, who Republicans paid little attention to for the duration of the Obama administration after the death of Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia. Rather than having confirmation hearings, the Senate waited until after the election.
“We believe that what Republicans did to Merrick Garland was worse than a filibuster,” Schumer said. “We didn’t hear two words in the long speech of Senator McConnell: Merrick Garland.”