Senate Republicans Deploy ‘Nuclear Option’ to Clear Path for Gorsuch
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans changed longstanding rules on Thursday to clear the way for the confirmation of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court, bypassing a precedent-breaking Democratic filibuster by allowing the nomination to go forward on a simple majority vote.
In deploying the so-called nuclear option, lawmakers are fundamentally altering the way the Senate operates — a sign of the body’s creeping rancor in recent years after decades of at least relative bipartisanship on Supreme Court matters. Both parties have likewise warned of sweeping effects on the future of the court, predicting that the shift will lead to the elevation of more ideologically extreme judges if only a majority is required for confirmation.
Senate Democrats in 2013 first changed the rules of the Senate to block Republican filibusters of presidential nominees to lower courts and to government positions, but they left the filibuster in place for Supreme Court nominees, an acknowledgement of the sacrosanct nature of the high court. That last pillar was knocked down on a party-line vote, with all 52 Republicans voting to overrule Senate precedent and all 48 Democrats and liberal-leaning independents voting to keep it. The Senate then voted 55-45 to cut off debate — four votes more than needed under the new rules — and move to a final vote on Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation Friday evening, with a simple majority needed for approval….
….Democrats had shown no signs of forsaking their filibuster plans all week. That has pleased their most progressive voters, who have preached resistance to Mr. Trump at every opportunity, and supplied the minority party with perhaps its loudest megaphone so far under the new president.
Many Democrats remain furious over the treatment of Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat left vacant with the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans refused to even consider Judge Garland during the presidential election year, a fact Mr. McConnell has not dwelled on during public statements about the history of Republican behavior under Democratic presidents.
“There must have been a hacking into his computer,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said of Mr. McConnell on Thursday from the Senate floor, “because he can’t print the name Merrick Garland to include in the speech.”
At the same time, critics of Judge Gorsuch say they have identified ample reasons to oppose him, chafing at the suggestion that Democrats are merely seeking payback. They have cited concerns over Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and whether he will be reliably independent from Mr. Trump and conservative groups like the Federalist Society, among other issues.
Excerpted from The New York Times