Showdown at hand over Trump's Supreme Court nominee

Cheryl Sanders
April 6, 2017

Democrats have secured the votes to block President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee under current rules, putting the Senate on a partisan collision course over confirming Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime appointment that could reverberate for decades.

Filibustering Gorsuch's nomination, the only option Democrats have if they want to even play a role in this drama, will not punish McConnell or other Republicans for their misdeeds. He said there was no principled reason to oppose a judge as well qualified and widely respected as Gorsuch.

Merkley's speech won't delay the debate or vote on Gorsuch, who was nominated to the position Republicans held open for almost a year to block former President Barack Obama from choosing a replacement for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

Merkley stood in front of a blow-up of the preamble to the Constitution, still talking Wednesday morning.

This President may have several more opportunities to nominate a Supreme Court Justice during his term. And while this unbalanced approach might make for interesting reading, the courtroom is not an academic paper.

Merkley's lengthy speech made for drama but had no chance to change the outcome.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to change the Senate's long-standing rules in order to eliminate the ability to use a procedural hurdle called a filibuster against Supreme Court nominees like Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, if a Democratic filibuster succeeds as expected in blocking a confirmation vote. "They need to reconsider".

While Democrats have enough votes to carry out a true filibuster that actually would delay a vote, McConnell said Wednesday that Republicans, who hold a 52-48 majority, have enough votes to overcome that filibuster if they use the nuclear option and move to a final confirmation vote Friday. There could be more - McConnell could hold more than one vote on the initial cloture in an attempt to get Democrats to back down from the filibuster and to avoid the rule change, which is controversial even among Republicans.

It is easy to be idealistic when one is in the minority, as Democrats are in the U.S. Senate these days.

Walker tweeted on Tuesday that Baldwin "broke her word to Wisconsinites to give Judge Gorsuch a fair shot. That could not be further from the truth", Schumer said.

Senator John McCain fumed to reporters that whoever thought it was a good idea to blow up longstanding Senate rules "is a stupid idiot". Filibustering Gorsuch's nomination, as Democrats have vowed to do, is an ineffective strategy, however.

Merkley questioned whether Republicans were moving quickly to end debate on Gorsuch's nomination "before that information becomes public". That started the clock toward a showdown Thursday, when Democrats are expected to try to block Gorsuch, at which point Republicans would respond by enacting the rules change.

That rules change, known as the "nuclear option", will then apply to future Supreme Court nominees, too. More immediately, Gorsuch's confirmation to fill the vacancy on the court created by Scalia's death would restore the conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia's death and could persist or grow for years to come.

Lawmakers of both parties bemoaned the further erosion of their traditions of bipartisanship and consensus.

But McConnell said there is no appetite for that and that it will not happen under his leadership.

He noted that the Senate, under McConnell's guidance, refused a year ago to consider Obama's nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Trump elected Gorsuch to fill.

Other reports by iNewsToday