Democrats are about to find out if Republican senators were bluffing when they said they’d exercise the nuclear option to get Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court.
The move — changing the number of votes needed to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court from 60 to 51 — would allow Republicans to overcome a Democrat-led filibuster, which was confirmed Monday.
Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, announced Monday he would join 40 other Senate Democrats planning to oppose Gorsuch, ensuring that Republicans will not have the 60 votes necessary to proceed with the Supreme Court nomination. Their only option left to confirm Gorsuch to the court will require at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans to vote to change the rules for Supreme Court justice confirmations. If they don’t, then President Donald Trump will have to find a new nominee and start the confirmation process all over again.
Republicans face an uphill climb made steeper by their refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, during the final 10 months of his presidency. Democratic lawmakers are also under relentless pressure from members of their voting base to vote “no” on Gorsuch. If the Democratic senators do not stand firm, several prominent progressive groups say they will find a Democrat who will in the next election.
“If you are filibustering [Gorsuch], as a Democrat that just means that you don’t accept the fact that President Trump won and this is the end of the qualification standard to be on the Supreme Court,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who plans to vote to change the rules.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut responded on Twitter: “My no on Gorsuch isn’t payback for Garland, but any Republican lecturing us on obstructionism this week gets the Gold Medal of Hypocrisy.”