The Senate just got ever closer to a 'nuclear' fight

Claire McCaskillMark Wilson/Getty ImagesClaire McCaskill.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Friday brought the Senate closer to a “nuclear” fight over President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

In a Medium post published Friday, McCaskill, a moderate Democrat, said she would vote no on a procedural vote for Gorsuch, indicating that she would join a Democratic filibuster against the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

“This is a really difficult decision for me,” McCaskill wrote. “I am not comfortable with either choice.”

“While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court — and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation — I remain very worried about our polarised politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future,” she continued.

McCaskill’s announcement came one day after fellow moderate Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced they would support Gorsuch’s nomination and vote in favour of the judge.

That brought the total number of votes to confirm Gorsuch to 54. But with Democratic leaders almost certainly set to enact a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely have to invoke the “nuclear” option and rewrite the Senate rules to kill the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees for Gorsuch to be confirmed. It’s an option McConnell has previously expressed little desire to do.

To reach 60 votes, McCaskill was key. Along with Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom hail from states carried by Trump in last year’s election — McCaskill was viewed as a necessity in order to obtain the necessary votes to crush a filibuster.

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