Senate votes to ‘go nuclear,’ clearing way for Gorsuch
The move (on a 52-48 vote) could change the Senate and court for generations. It came Thursday on a procedural motion.
The change is dubbed “the nuclear option.” It removes a 60-vote filibuster requirement for Neil Gorsuch. The Senate is expected to confirm the appellate court judge on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised a point of order to change the rules “under the precedent set on Nov. 21, 2013,” when Senate Democrats who were then in the majority made the same move for lower court and executive branch nominations.
GOP playing hardball … finally
Steve Jordahl (OneNewsnow.com)
Political consultant Jeff Crank, reacting to today’s vote in the Senate, says “going nuclear” is the first time in a long time that Republicans have played hardball, take-no-prisoners politics.
“Republicans seem to play by the rules, Democrats don’t,” he states.
Cranks points out that former President Obama appointed two Supreme Court justices, neither of whom was filibustered: Sonia Sotomayor got 68 votes, Elena Kagan got 63.
“The reason they didn’t need the nuclear option at that time,” he explains, “is that Republicans wouldn’t filibuster a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee because they believe that a president has a right to appoint someone – and if they’re qualified, that they should go sit on the court.”
Sandy Rios, director of governmental affair for the American Family Association, noticed the same thing.
“I’m very grateful to Speaker McConnell,” she tells OneNewsNow. “I honestly never thought I’d see the day where he would actually invoke what they call the ‘nuclear option’ – [but] I would call it the ‘constitutional option.'”
Summary of the debate
Furious Democrats objected until the end, but their efforts to block Gorsuch failed as expected. Lawmakers of both parties bemoaned the long-term implications for the Senate, the court and the country.
“We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
The maneuvering played out in an atmosphere of tension in the Senate chamber with most senators in their seats, a rare and theatrical occurrence.
First Democrats mounted a filibuster in an effort to block Gorsuch by denying him the 60 votes needed to advance to a final vote.
Then Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
McConnell was overruled, but appealed the ruling. And on that he prevailed on a 52-48 party line vote.
The 60-vote filibuster requirement on Supreme Court nominees was effectively gone, and with it the last vestige of bipartisanship on presidential nominees in an increasingly polarized Senate.
A final confirmation vote on Gorsuch is expected Friday and he could then be sworn in in time to take his seat on the court later this month and hear the final cases of the term.
The maneuvering played out with much hand-wringing from all sides about the future of the Senate, as well as unusually bitter accusations and counter-accusations as each side blamed the other.
The rules change is known as the “nuclear option” because of its far-reaching implications.
“This will be the first, and last, partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee,” McConnell declared.
Democrats also remain livid over McConnell’s decision last year to deny consideration to then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who was ignored for the better part of a year by Senate Republicans after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Instead, McConnell kept Scalia’s seat open, a calculation that is now paying off hugely for Republicans and Trump, who will be able to claim the biggest victory of his presidency to date if Gorsuch is confirmed as expected.