WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans in the Senate ignored the complaints of their Democrat counterparts on Thursday by evoking the so called “nuclear option” to ensure confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.
The move to do so came after Democrats initially blocked Gorsuch’s next steps toward confirmation in a filibuster earlier in the day.
Although four Democrats, Sens. Michael Bennet, (D)-Colo.; Heidi Heitkamp, (D)-N.D.; Joe Donnelly, (D)-Ind.; and Joe Manchin, (D)-W.Va. broke rank and voted to confirm Gorsuch, Republicans still fell short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.
Saying he must do so “for the sake of our country,” Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell said going nuclear (overriding Senate rules so that the president’s nominee could move toward final confirmation with a simple majority of just 51 votes) was necessary in order to “restore norms” move forward after what he called an “unprecedented” Democratic filibuster.
“This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet and it can not and will not stand. There cannot be two sets of standards, one for the nominees of a Democratic president and another for the nominees of a Republican president,” said McConnell. “Few outside New York or San Francisco believe Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the mainstream, but Neil Gorsuch is not.”
“This will be the first and the last partisan filibuster of the Supreme Court nomination,” he added.
Democrats, angry that Merrick Garland, former president Barack Obama’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after Scalia’s death in 2016, was not given a hearing due to the then president’s outgoing status, were quick to criticize the move.
“We believe what Republicans did to Merrick Garland was worse than a filibuster,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D)-New York. “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 said. “In 20 or 30 or 40 years, we will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court, a day when we irrevocably moved further away from the principles our founders intended for these institutions: principles of bipartisanship, moderation and consensus.”
Shumer’s comments were echoed by Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D)-Illinois, who said “The nuclear option was used by Senator McConnell when he stopped Merrick Garland. What we’re facing today is the fallout.”
In the end, Republicans supported the nuclear decision, voting to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.
A final vote to confirm Gorsuch is expected on Friday.