McConnell confident he has the votes to go 'nuclear'By Darlene Powers Apr 05, 2017
Conservative Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of MS was part of bipartisan talks in 2013 to avert the nuclear option when Democrats were considering - and ultimately used - the rule change on lower court judges.
Before that happens, however, McConnell said he first would set a vote for Thursday to break the Democrats' promised filibuster of U.S. Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination.
At this point, either President Trump will have to withdraw Gorsuch's nomination, or Senate Republicans will have to change the rules to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.
Durbin told WJBC's Scott Laughlin and Patti Penn, Gorsuch doesn't have the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and Republicans have vowed to use the unclear option to permanently remove that threshold.
"Our Democratic colleagues trotted out the same old, exhausted arguments we've heard time and time again about Judge Gorsuch", Cornyn said on the Senate floor. The procedural vote needs the support of 60 senators - a hurdle the GOP can not overcome on its own.
The exact order of the next steps could vary.
President Barack Obama stepped to the microphone in the White House briefing room and had a job to do - make the case for a major change made by his party's Senate leader to how the chamber works.
Democrats have accused Gorsuch of being insufficiently independent of Trump, evading questions on key Supreme Court rulings of the past including on abortion and political spending, and favoring corporate interests over ordinary Americans.
Tester Undecided On Supreme Court Nomination Vote
But the threat of the filibuster has always been there, which may have led some presidents to choose less extreme nominees. The 1991 nomination of Clarence Thomas was controversial yet there was no cloture vote, even though he was confirmed.
Now, McConnell will be the one calling the same shots.
Schumer, never one to fight an unwinnable fight, has spent the last few weeks rallying support for the filibuster among his caucus - an effort that formally succeeded Monday when the 41st Democratic senator came out against ending debate on the Gorsuch nomination. Blocking cloture is known as a filibuster, which can continue until enough votes are cast to stop it or the rules are changed. Majority parties frustrated by minority intransigence have occasionally threatened to end the filibuster - but actually doing it is a rarity. In the Senate, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster. "I will vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch one way or another".
"The Senate will confirm Judge Gorsuch despite the filibuster", he told CNN. He said the change would apply only to Supreme Court nominations. "They seem to be hurtling toward the abyss this time, and trying to take the Senate with them".
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, meanwhile, said Democrats are still seething over the way Republicans treated President Obama's pick for the same seat, Judge Merrick Garland, whom the GOP refused to even grant a hearing, much less a vote.
On the same program, Schumer said, "I don't think there's any thirst to change the legislative rules". They blame Democrats for ratcheting up a confirmation battle over a jurist that they say is well within the mainstream. John Thune (R-SD) said earlier Tuesday when asked why Republicans were hesitant to talk about changing the rules.
"If (Democrats) are going to oppose Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they will never vote and never support a nominee of this President. But I certainly don't want to".
However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said Gorsuch's answers during two days of questioning before the committee were "diluted with ambiguity". In the full Senate, even routine activities like allowing senators to give brief floor speeches need consent from all members.
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