Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley took to the senate floor overnight to protest President Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee, continuing well into Wednesday morning.
“My own personal protest of where we have come to, my own request for how we change directions — I plan to keep speaking for quite a while longer, for as long as I’m able,” Merkley said, launching into his speech at 6:45 PM on Tuesday.
In a lengthy speech lasting over 15 hours, the Oregon senator repeatedly criticised Judge Neil Gorsuch for his rulings in favour of businesses.
“Judge Gorsuch’s dissents from his colleagues on the tenth circuit court of appeals are consistently right-wing, generally seeking to favour big business and other authority and harm the interests of workers and those who have suffered abuse by government officials.”
Merkley also decried the tactics senate Republicans used to block President Barack Obama from filling the seat vacated when former Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly last year.
“The majority team in this chamber decided to steal a supreme court seat,” Merkley said, dubbing it was an attempt to “pack the court.”
He also noted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s declaration that Trump should not have a supreme court nominee while the president’s associates are under investigation by law enforcement agencies for potential ties to Russia.
“It’s unacceptable as we are accepting this nomination at this moment as there is a cloud over the presidency because of the conduct during the campaign,” Merkley said.
Though not technically a filibuster, Merkley continued for hours, at one point talking with his eyes closed.
Merkley rallied support from outside progressive groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Sierra Club, as well as some of his senate colleagues.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin joined the Oregon senator around 6:30 AM on Wednesday, while colleagues like Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy praised the Oregon senator on Twitter.
The speech came just days before Democrats are prepared to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, a move that will likely spur Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change the senate rules ending the filibuster for supreme court nominees, allowing a nominee to be confirmed with a simple majority.
Some Democratic lawmakers have conceded that Gorsuch is technically qualified to serve on the court. But progressive activists successfully pressured many to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination because of his conservative rulings on key issues like businesses’ religious freedom and the authority of the federal government.
Pro-abortion-rights groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America have aggressively opposed Gorsuch’s nomination, citing his record on reproductive health issues, and vowed not to endorse any Democrat who supports the judge.
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