Democrat ends all-night speech as Supreme Court clash nears

Merkley's lengthy speech made for drama but had no chance to change the outcome.

It was half past noon Monday when Chuck Grassley, the genial chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked for a show of hands: Did senators debating the Neil Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court want to break for lunch?

Democrats were "hurtling toward the abyss", he said, "and trying to take the Senate with them". In 2006, however, not a single Senate Democrat objected to Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, one of four judges up for Senate confirmation on July 20 that year.

While Democrats have enough votes to carry out a true filibuster that actually would delay a vote, McConnell said Wednesday that Republicans, who hold a 52-48 majority, have enough votes to overcome that filibuster if they use the nuclear option and move to a final confirmation vote Friday.

Today, some of my colleagues plan to filibuster President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. "It's interesting because we talk about the nuclear option of changing the rules, but in a very de facto manner, the nuclear option went off the day the majority leader came to the floor and said we're going to conduct ourselves in a totally different way than the Senate's ever conducted itself".

The change would apply to future Supreme Court nominees as well, allowing them to get on the court without bipartisan support, which could lead to a more ideologically polarized court over time.

Republicans are now citing that rule change as a precedent for their potential use of it later this week.

Following Merkley on the floor, McConnell ridiculed the opposition from Democrats.

In fact, a Senate rules change does appear to be the lone route that Republicans have to put Gorsuch on the court.

After eight years in the Senate, Bennet said, "I know these words, so often written in the dead of night, in meager attempts to let everybody go home, can not be explained without reference to legislative context or human history or lawmakers' intent". More immediately, Gorsuch's confirmation to fill the vacancy on the court created by Scalia's death would restore the conservative voting majority that existed before Scalia's death and could persist or grow for years to come.

Lawmakers of both parties bemoaned the coming blowup, warning it threatens to further undermine Senate traditions of bipartisanship and consensus.

First, though, looms showdown votes Thursday, when 44 Democrats and independents intend to try to block Gorsuch by denying Republicans the 60 votes needed to proceed to final passage. However, McConnell pledged Tuesday that the legislative filibuster would not be removed on his watch.

Republicans argue that Gorsuch is an eminently qualified judge and Democrats are obstructing because they and their base are upset that Trump is president. As of Monday, just three Democrats said they meant to vote for cloture, while 41 said they plan to block the nomination.

  • Salvatore Jensen