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Senate Republicans Trigger Nuclear Option, Clearing Gorsuch Nomination

Thursday, April 6, 2017 10:42
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(Before It's News)

Summary: The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to repeal a rule allowing filibusters against Supreme Court nominees,invoking the so-called nuclear option, and clearing the way for Gorsuch confirmation who now needs a simple majority for nomination.

The move sets up a final confirmation vote on Gorsuch for Friday afternoon, the Hill notes, after another cloture vote later Thursday followed by thirty hours of more debate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) initiated the rules change by raising a point of order asserting that simple-majority votes should advance Supreme Court nominees to final confirmation votes. Democrats tried to delay it by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans stayed unified.

Earlier Thursday, McConnell said the rules change would restore the Senate’s tradition of considering a Supreme Court nominee based on credentials instead of ideology.

He called the Democratic filibuster of Goruch “a radical move” and something “completely unprecedented in the history of our Senate.”

“This threatened filibuster cannot be allowed to succeed or to continue for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the court and for the sake our country,” he said.

Earlier, McConnell accused Democrats of having steadily ratcheted up the “judicial wars” over the years and noted that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Bill Clinton’s pick for the court in 1993, once advocated for the abolishing Mother’s Day but was still confirmed by a 96-3 vote.

The American Bar Association rated Gorsuch as unanimously well-qualified, but Democrats criticized him for not revealing his personal judicial philosophy during confirmation as well as for several opinions they said showed he tended to favor powerful interests over “the little guy.”

* * *

Update 2:  Republican’s start roll call to implement ‘nuclear option’:

Update 1:  As expected, Democrats have just voted to temporarily block Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, setting up a “nuclear option” vote for later in the day.  Around 11:30AM EST, Senators voted 55-45 on ending debate over President Trump’s pick leaving Republicans 5 votes shy of the 60 vote threshold required.

As we noted earlier, Republicans are planning a vote later today to remove the 60-vote threshold for cloture on Supreme Court nominees, lowering it to a simple majority.

And with that vote, the official Democrat policy objectives for the next two years have been publicly recorded:


* * *

Back in 2013, before Republicans seized control of the Senate during the 2014 mid-term elections, Democrats became the first party to pursue the “nuclear option” in order to appoint Obama judges over the objection of Republicans.  Both Obama and then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised the use of the “nuclear option” at the time:

Obama:  “The gears of government have to work. And the step that a majority of senators took today, I think, will help make those gears work just a little bit better.”

Harry Reid:  “It’s time to change. It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”

And while Democrats celebrated, Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to warn his colleagues on the other side of the aisle that they just might come to regret their decision “sooner than you think.”

“If you want to play games, set another precedent that you’ll no doubt come to regret.  To my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

Today, it’s looking increasingly likely that “sooner” has come.  As NBC reports, barring some unexpected, last-minute deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will almost certainly trigger the so-called ‘nuclear option’ later today to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. 

Senators spent all day yesterday debating the matter, but the outcome — a permanent change in rules that will affect both the Senate and the nation’s highest court — has been as good as settled since at least week when Democrats confirmed they had the votes required to block Gorsuch’s nomination.

Here’s how it will work:

The Senate is slated to hold a procedural vote, called a cloture around mid-day Thursday. Sixty votes are needed to end debate and move forward to a final vote that requires a simple majority of 51 to confirm Gorsuch.

But Democrats have enough votes to prevent, or filibuster that first step. When the cloture vote fails, McConnell is likely to begin the process of changing the rules to eliminate filibusters on Supreme Court nominations, with a vote on that expected later Thursday afternoon. Then the final up-or-down vote to confirm Gorsuch is expected to take place on Friday.

Meanwhile, the rule change will come after Senate Democrat Jeff Merkley wasted 15.5 hours ‘filibustering’ on the Senate floor overnight.  Ironically, as even Chuck Todd notes in the video below, Merkley fully supported the Democrats’ use of the ‘nuclear option’ in 2013. 

As The Hill notes, a group of Republicans and Democrats led by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.) negotiated intensely over the weekend in hopes of avoiding a blowup over the rules, but they fell short.

“The negotiations with which I was heavily involved have failed to come up with a compromise, which saddens me. There’s so little trust between the two parties that it was very difficult to put together an agreement that would avert changing the rules,” Collins told reporters.

“I worked very hard over the weekend, as did several Democrats and several Republicans, but we were not able to reach an agreement,” Collins added, estimating that about 10 lawmakers were involved.

The group held calls as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as midnight in hopes of avoiding a rule change adopted along party lines.

Coons said the talks fell apart because of pressure from Senate leaders, who weren’t interested in a deal, and from the conservative and liberal bases of the party, who view the Supreme Court’s composition as a top priority.

“The fact that both leaders were opposing negotiations also, frankly, made it difficult,” Coons said. “Both caucus leadership and outside groups were a source of steady and aggressive pressure against some consensus negotiation, in both parties.”

Of course, while Republicans will undoubtedly declare victory tomorrow upon Gorsuch’s nomination, it’s only a matter of time before the tables are turned once again and their decision comes back to haunt them. 


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