Senate Republicans 'go nuclear' to approve Gorsuch for US Supreme Court
The “nuclear option” – overriding a rule or procedure with a simple majority of 51 senators – was invoked after the minority Democrats cast 45 votes against cloture, filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination. Trump nominated Gorsuch to fill the vacancy left by last February’s passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
After extensive hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats declared that Gorsuch was not a “mainstream candidate,” and that they could not support him.
“There cannot be two sets of standards, one for the nominees of a Democratic president and another for the nominees of a Republican president,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) declared on the Senate floor on Thursday morning.
“Few outside New York or San Francisco believe Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the mainstream, but Neil Gorsuch is not,” he added.
“This will be the first and the last partisan filibuster of the Supreme Court nomination,” said McConnell.
The motion to overrule the cloture requirement was approved along party lines shortly after noon on Thursday.
Democrats argued that their conduct was fully justified, given the Republicans’ refusal to give even a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, who had been nominated last year by President Barack Obama.
“We believe what Republicans did to Merrick Garland was worse than a filibuster,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
“The nuclear option was used by Senator McConnell when he stopped Merrick Garland. What we’re facing today is the fallout,” said Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
Schumer attempted to dodge the nuclear option by proposing a delay to the proceedings until after Easter recess. The vote failed along party lines, with 48 votes in favor and 52 opposed.
Introduced in 1917 and modified in 1975, cloture requires 60 votes – three fifths of the Senate – to agree to end a debate. No such rule exists in the House of Representatives.
Senator Schumer called the 60-vote standard a “guardrail of our democracy.” However, it was the Democrats who changed the rules in 2013 to eliminate cloture when it comes to judicial nominees and executive office appointments. Cloture has remained the standard for Supreme Court nominations, though.
Trump foresaw the possibility of Democrats trying to filibuster the judge even before the hearings.
“If we end up with that gridlock, I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,” Trump told reporters on February 1. “It’s up to Mitch, but I would say go for it.”
Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the Senate, enough to carry any simple majority vote, but require at least eight Democrats to overcome a filibuster. Only three crossed the aisle on Thursday.