'Nuclear Option' Looms as Lawmakers Line Up Against Neil Gorsuch
Judiciary committee delays vote on Supreme Court nominee until April 3, giving resistance movement an opening to ramp up opposition
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee requested the delay, which punts the vote to April 3, "giving Republicans days to meet their goal of winning Gorsuch's confirmation by the full Senate by the end of that week," as The Hill points out. The Senate goes into a two-week recess starting April 8.
The delay, while expected, sets into motion "a major showdown over his Senate confirmation," Politico wrote—and an opening for opponents to further ramp up the pressure on lawmakers to block his nomination.
At least 14 senators—as many as 20, according to some counts—have said they'll vote against Gorsuch, though fewer have committed to a filibuster, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for last week.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), for example, told VTDigger Sunday night: "I am not inclined to filibuster, even though I'm not inclined to vote for him." He clarified his position in a tweet on Monday:
I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding.
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) March 27, 2017
NBC News reports:
With Republicans holding 52 seats, they will need at least eight Democrats to vote with them under the current rules to send the nominee forward for a final confirmation vote that would then require a simple majority.
But Republicans do have the extreme option of employing the "nuclear" option—a change of Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet tipped his hand on whether he is willing to do that, and it's not clear that he will have to make that decision as there are still 30 Democrats who haven't said how they will vote.
But with Democratic senators like Florida's Bill Nelson coming out against Gorsuch (and for a filibuster), the GOP's "[p]ath is getting very, very narrow already," Politico reporter Burgess Everett wrote Monday on Twitter.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, of Delaware, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday that McConnell will "almost certainly" use the nuclear option—a potentially disadvantageous move because the change in the rules would become the norm for future Supreme Court nominations, regardless of what party is in charge.
"I think this is tragic," Coons said. "And on talking to friends on both sides of the aisle, we've got a lot of senators concerned about where we're headed. There's Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule, we're mad at them for shutting down the government, they're mad at us for Gorsuch, and we're not headed in a good direction."
And lawmakers are being held accountable at home, too. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) got an earful on the subject at a raucous town hall meeting this weekend, as the Washington Post reported:
Graham strongly defended Gorsuch, saying that he will "enthusiastically" support Trump's Supreme Court nominee and that filibustering him would be a "huge mistake" for Democrats.
"To everybody that boos Judge Gorsuch, you're not persuading me at all. As a matter of fact, if you can't understand this is a qualified nominee, then you're not listening," Graham said, refusing to let the boos drown him out.
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