The Senate is on the verge of going “nuclear” as Democrats on Thursday filibustered President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Republicans needed 60 votes in a procedural vote that would have ended debate on Gorsuch after 30 additional hours and led to a confirmation vote by simple majority. But 44 senators voted against ending debate.
Republicans are now faced with enacting what is known as the “nuclear” option — rewriting the chamber’s rules to kill the option of a filibuster on Supreme Court nominees based on a simple majority vote. Democrats have employed that tactic elsewhere, as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used it in 2013 to assist in the confirmations of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive nominees.
Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’s not a fan of changing the rules and going “nuclear,” but Republicans are steadfast on getting Gorsuch confirmed, and the Kentucky Republican has expressed willingness to enact the option.
A pair of Democratic senators who represent states Trump won in landslides last fall, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, announced last week that they would break from the party and vote with the Republicans to move Gorsuch’s nomination along.
But no other Democratic senators broke, including moderate Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all of whom represented states won by Trump and were targeted to flip.
Democrats view the opposition to Gorsuch, who earlier this month was grilled for more than 20 hours on Capitol Hill by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as an appropriate response to the thwarting of President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the vacant seat. Judge Merrick Garland’s confirmation was obstructed by Republican senators last year.
This post will be updated.