Senate Democrats blocked the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch this morning with a 55-45 vote, leaving Gorsuch’s supporters 5 votes short of cloture. Confirmation required a 60-vote super majority, which, despite the Senate’s Republican majority, was unachievable with over 45 Democrats agreeing to filibuster.
Neil Gorsuch’s strict, originalist interpretation of the constitution has elicited opposition from Democrats in the Senate. Throughout his service as a judge in the 10th Circut Court of Appeals, Gorsuch has openly opposed assisted suicide, reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. In a discussion about the rights of same-sex couples, Gorsuch referred to heterosexual marriage as the only kind of “real” marriage.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnel has stated he will invoke the “nuclear option” to overcome Democratic resistance, changing the rules to a 51-vote simple majority rather than the 60-vote super majority. Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison criticized McConnel’s willingness to invoke the nuclear option, saying
“If you do not have the support, we should not change the rules for you. We should change the nominee.”
The rule requiring 60 votes to break a filibuster was put in place to protect the minority in increasingly significant decisions, such as the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. While the nuclear option has been used in the past, there is no precedent for invoking it in the decision of a Supreme Court Justice.
As majority leader, Mitch McConnel would introduce the motion which would then have to be approved by a majority of the Senate body. If the vote tied, Vice President Mike Pence would cast a tie-breaking vote, virtually guaranteeing the approval of Donald Trump’s nominee.
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said in a statement on Monday that “It’s plain and simple: Gorsuch has not earned the votes in the Senate to join the Supreme Court. Republicans can’t fix Gorsuch by changing the rules. They need to change the nominee.”
The filibuster rule has always been a characteristic of the Senate that set it apart from the House of Representatives, where the majority party essentially has free reign to do what it wants. To choose the nuclear option, Thomas M. Keck stated, would be “another step in the downward spiral in political polarization.”