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The political wrangling over President Donald Trump’s choice to fill the vacant US Supreme Court seat has set up what could turn out to be a major battle in the Senate. Democrats on Monday were poised to attempt to block Judge Neil Gorsuch, depriving him of the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to respond to a filibuster with the so-called nuclear option, setting up a likely vote to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California said of that option on Monday: “When McConnell deprived President Obama of a vote on Garland, it was a nuclear option. The rest is fallout.”
President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland in March of last year to fill the seat for which Gorsuch is now in line to fill. Though Obama had more than 10 months left in his second term, Republicans refused to hold congressional hearings for Garland, arguing that it was too close to the election and that voters should be able to decide which president they wanted filling the seat left vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Democrats have vowed to try to stop Gorsuch’s confirmation, citing concerns about his history on the judiciary and the multiple investigations into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
The nuclear option has been invoked in Congress before. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, employed it to help get Obama’s judicial and executive nominees confirmed.