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With President Donald Trump nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, an all-out brawl is potentially on the precipice of breaking out in the Senate.
And it could result in the “nuclear” option being implemented.
Many Senate Democrats are still enraged at the nearly yearlong blockade put forth by their Republican counterparts against President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
And they want retribution, promising to block any selection from Trump.
“The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Given his record, I have very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability to meet this standard.”
If Democrats decide to filibuster Trump’s choice, the nominee will need 60 votes to pass. Republicans control 52 seats.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, told Politico on Monday that he would filibuster any choice who was not Garland.
“This is a stolen seat,” he said. “This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat. We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”
And though Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday he would consider a Trump nominee “based on the merits,” he later opened the door to years of obstruction.
“One of the unfortunate consequences of the Garland obstructionism has been to show that, in fact, the Supreme Court can function with eight members,” he said.
Should Democrats decide to go forth with filibustering the selection, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could enact that so-called nuclear option: The Senate rules could be changed by simple majority, eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
That option was most recently invoked by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to assist in the confirmation of Obama’s judicial and executive nominees.
Speaking with Politico on Friday, McConnell said the “practice was that you didn’t do it even though the tool is in the toolbox.”
“There are a lot of tools in there,” he said. “Until Bush 43, the filibuster tool was always there. But it wasn’t done.” “Two good examples: There was no filibuster against [Robert] Bork and, of course, the most controversial Supreme Court nomination ever was Clarence Thomas. Democrats were in the majority; he was approved 52-48.”
And the Kentucky Republican expressed total confidence the nominee would get through the process.
“We’re going to get this nominee confirmed,” he said. “I hope he or she will be confirmed based upon the completely outstanding credentials that we’re going to see.”