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Republicans Probably Have to Go Nuclear to Confirm Neil Gorsuch

The Democrats reportedly now have all 41 votes they need to filibuster Trump's SCOTUS pick.

by Lauren Messman
Apr 3 2017, 6:57pm

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware became the 41st Democrat to vow to oppose Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice on Monday, lending the Democrats just enough votes to filibuster his appointment, Politico reports.

As the chamber's rules stand now, appointed Supreme Court justices need a 60-vote majority from the Senate to be approved for the gig. By Monday, only four of the Senate's 48 Democrats—Michael Bennet of Colorado, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota—had agreed to back Gorsuch, according to Politico. Without the support of eight Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely pursue the "nuclear option," by seeking a vote to change the rules so that Gorsuch can be approved with a 51-vote majority.

"Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week," the Kentucky Republican told NBC on Sunday. "How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends." 

Senate Democrats vowed to filibuster Trump's SCOTUS pick in January before Gorsuch was even nominated, partly in retaliation for McConnell's decision to block President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the bench in March 2016. Now, with Trump in office, McConnell wants to put an end to the filibuster option, effectively streamlining future SCOTUS nominations.

But not all of his Republican colleagues agree with the decision, though. Back in November, Republican senator Orin Hatch said, "[The filibuster is] the only way to protect the minority, and we've been in the minority a lot more than we've been in the majority."

On Monday, the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Gorsuch's nomination, sending the Colorado judge through for a contentious full Senate vote later this week.