Apr 03, 2017
Updated 1:15pm EDT:
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) said Monday that he would not be supporting the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, handing the Democratic opposition the 41 votes needed for a filibuster and thus raising the question of whether the Republican Party will go so far as to use the "nuclear option" to force the Supreme Court confirmation.
During his announcement, Coons called on his Republican colleagues to come together to find an alternate option.
With the Senate Judiciary committee voting Monday to advance the confirmation of judge Neil Gorsuch, forces on opposing sides of the political spectrum are laser-focused on the handful of lawmakers who have not yet committed publicly to voting for or against the Supreme Court nominee.
In what has essentially become a game of chicken between the two dominant political factions, the Democratic Party is reportedly closing in on the 41 votes needed to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination during the floor vote, currently scheduled for Friday. But Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has hinted that he is willing to use the so-called "nuclear option," which would change the rules to allow the reigning party to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority, or 51 votes.
Sen. Patrick Leahy on Monday announced he would not be supporting Gorsuch because of the judge's refusal during his confirmation hearing to answer "basic questions about the principles underlying our Constitution." This means that the opposition needs to gain just one more vote to block the nominee, challenging Republicans to proceed with the nuclear threat.
The Indivisible movement said Monday that it is "confident Democrats will stand strong" against President Donald Trump's nominee with a 60-vote threshold, and went so far as to question if Republicans could even rally enough support to go nuclear.
\u201cTHREAD: When Trump nominated friend-of-Wall Street Neil Gorsuch to our highest court, we were told the fight was unwinnable.\u201d— Indivisible Guide (@Indivisible Guide) 1491228183
\u201cPeople are wondering aloud whether Republicans have the 51st vote they need for the nuclear option. Keep up the pressure. It's working.\u201d— Indivisible Guide (@Indivisible Guide) 1491228183
This is despite the fact that three Democrats have now bucked party leadership in backing Trump's nominee. On Sunday, Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) announced he would join Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) in voting for Gorsuch, prompting calls from Democrats to abandon the "traitors" come the 2018 primary election.
\u201cGORSUCH Has 3 DEMS\nW VA -JOE MANCHIN Voted YES 15X\nND -HEIDI HEITKAMP Voted YES 14X\nIND -JOE DONNELLY Voted YES 13X\nALL up 4 REELECTION 2018\u201d— Bettie Rose \ud83c\udf3b (@Bettie Rose \ud83c\udf3b) 1491204712
According to the latest whip count, four senators have not yet announced how they are voting: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). At the same time, Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) continues to fall under what Huffington Post describes as "squishy" in his support, meaning that he has "hinted that [he'll] vote with Republicans to end the filibuster, but then vote against Gorsuch's confirmation."
Meanwhile, an outside conservative group comprised of secret donors has been targeting the districts of those lawmakers with a multi-million dollar advertising campaign claiming that Gorsuch is a "fair-minded," middle-of-the-road nominee. Last week, the Judicial Crisis Network announced it would contribute another $1 million in a last-minute ad blitz on top of the $10 million already spent in support of his confirmation.
But progressive groups have repeatedly warned that the judge's record of pro-corporate, anti-women, and anti-worker opinions makes him far more extreme than his supporters claim, pointing to Gorsuch's Senate confirmation hearing when he refused to articulate his stance on critical Supreme Court decisions, such as Roe v. Wade, that are certain to face challenges in upcoming years.
Rebuking the argument that Democrats should save their "firepower" for future Supreme Court battles, The Nation's Ari Berman on Monday outlined the numerous reasons the party has for blocking Gorsuch, arguing that even if they are ultimately unsuccessful, "they need to try."
"Put pressure on moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowsk. Energize the Democratic base. Shine a spotlight on the importance of the courts. Show the public they stand for something," Berman wrote, adding: "Caving on Gorsuch will make it harder, not easier, to wage future battles."
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