Democrats on April 3 amassed enough support to block a U.S. Senate confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but Republicans vowed to change the Senate rules to ensure the conservative judge gets the lifetime job.
As the Judiciary Committee moved to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, Sen. Christopher Coons became the 41st Democrat to announce support for a procedural hurdle — a filibuster — requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to allow a confirmation vote.
But Republican Senate leaders insist Gorsuch will be confirmed on the Senate floor on Friday regardless of what the Democrats do, even if they have to change long-standing Senate rules.
In the face of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be expected to force a confirmation vote by having the Senate change its rules and allow for a simple majority vote for confirmation of Supreme Court justices, a move sometimes called the “nuclear option” that Trump has urged.
Judiciary Committee Republicans blasted Democrats for pursuing what they called the first “partisan filibuster” of a Supreme Court nominee — there was a successful bipartisan filibuster five decades ago against a Democratic president’s nominee — and said it would come to naught because of the threatened rule change.
Senate Republicans last year refused to even consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Trump has selected Gorsuch to fill.
“Democrats, including me, are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year. But the traditions and principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week,” Coons said.
Coons left room for a compromise, in which Democrats would allow the vote to go ahead in return for Republicans agreeing to a 60-vote threshold for the next Supreme Court vacancy.
“So for my part, I hope and pray that we can yet find a way together to find a solution,” Coons added.
Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat high court’s conservative majority, fulfilling one of Trump’s top campaign promises.
Trump in January nominated Gorsuch, a conservative appeals court judge from Colorado, to the lifetime job as a justice.
Gorsuch was nominated to fill a vacancy created by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Republicans control the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade. The inability of Senate Republicans to coax enough Democratic support to avoid the “nuclear option” reflected the intense partisan divide in Washington and the Trump administration’s failure to win the cooperation of the opposition party.
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, and Mark Warner, not a member of the panel, also announced opposition to Gorsuch on April 3 and support for a filibuster.
The actual confirmation vote would be by a simple majority if the filibuster is stopped. To date, three Democrats have come out in support of Gorsuch and the Republicans would have needed to secure eight Democratic votes to kill a filibuster.
Democrats have said Gorsuch is not sufficiently independent of Trump, evaded questions on key Supreme Court rulings of the past including on abortion and political spending and favors corporate interests over ordinary Americans.
Feinstein said this was not a “routine nomination,” noting what happened to Garland.
“There was simply no reason that the nomination of Judge Garland could not proceed, other than to deny the then-president of the United States, President Barack Obama, the ability to fill the seat,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein criticized Gorsuch’s rulings against a fired truck driver and an autistic child and faulted his actions as a lawyer in Republican former President George W. Bush’s Justice Department regarding detainee interrogation techniques critics called torture.
Feinstein also said she was disturbed by the millions of dollars of “dark money” from anonymous donors backing advertising and political advocacy by conservative groups to help Gorsuch win confirmation.
For the record…
These Democrats and one independent who have announced their opposition to Gorsuch and willingness to block the nominee:
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Sherrod Brown of Ohio
Tom Carper of Delaware
Bob Casey of Pennsylvania
Kamala Harris of California
Ed Markey of Massachusetts
Jeff Merkley of Oregon
Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Chuck Schumer of New York
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
Jack Reed of Rhode Island
Tom Udall of New Mexico
Patty Murray of Washington
Ron Wyden of Oregon
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Bill Nelson of Florida
Mazie Hirono of Hawaii
Al Franken of Minnesota
Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Dick Durbin of Illinois
Gary Peters of Michigan
Chris Van Hollen of Maryland
Chris Murphy of Connecticut
Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
Kirsten Gilibrand of New York
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
Tim Kaine of Virginia
Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
Cory Booker of New Jersey
Maria Cantwell of Washington
Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada
Tammy Duckworth of Illinois
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
Brian Schatz of Hawaii
Claire McCaskill of Missouri
Jon Tester of Montana
Dianne Feinstein of California
Mark Warner of Virginia
Patrick Leahy of Vermont
Chris Coons of Delaware
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said on Monday, “Resistance activists nationwide are cheering for the vast majority of Senate Democrats who have united to deny Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, the 60 votes required for confirmation.
“Especially as Donald Trump and his administration are under criminal investigation for potentially having colluded with Russia to rig the presidential election, which has cast doubt on the very legitimacy of this administration, now is not the time for the Senate to give Trump a Supreme Court justice who could serve for 40 years or more.”
The Democrats who have stated support for Gorsuch include: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Progressive leaders delivered more than 230,000 petition signatures to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to announce that it will not allocate campaign funds to any Democratic senator who votes for or strikes a deal to advance the confirmation of right-wing extremist Neil Gorsuch.
DSCC staff shut the door on the the activists as they tried to enter DSCC headquarters.
The signatures were collected by CREDO, #AllofUs, Demand Progress, Friends of the Earth Action, Other98, Social Security Works and #VOTEPROCHOICE.
Other organizations supporting the campaign include 350 Action, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Our Revolution, Presente Action, and UltraViolet Action.