McConnell triggers 'nuclear option' on Gorsuch nomination

Senate Republicans cleared the way for the confirmation of Donald Trump's Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch on Thursday by triggering the "nuclear option" to effectively eliminate the filibuster for high-court nominations.

Earlier, three Democrats voted with the 52 Republicans to advance Gorsuch's nomination for a vote, falling short of the 60 needed to override the filibuster.

Ahead of the vote, about 20 protesters with a group called Democracy Spring held a sit-in demonstration at one of the Senate's office buildings, chanting, "Stop Gorsuch" as police officers surrounded and then arrested some of them.

It was a risky move and Democrats were furious, but it ultimately paid off for Republicans when Trump won in a surprise victory last November.

A vote to postpone Gorsuch's nomination, in line with the Democrats' desire to wait until the Federal Bureau of Investigation's inquiry into the administration's ties to Russian Federation comes to a close, failed, with the Democrats unanimously voting in favor and the Republicans all voting against the proposal. A Democratic senator held the Senate floor through the night and was still going Wednesday in an attention-grabbing talk-a-thon highlighting his party's opposition to President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a past critic of invoking the nuclear option, said negotiations to prevent it failed this time because of what the Senate had become. "It's the most extreme measure, with the most extreme consequences".

Asked what he was thinking as he walked to the Senate floor, Whitehouse said one word: "Inevitability".

After that vote, McConnell quickly initiated the first of a series of parliamentary motions, points of order and rulings of the Senate chair aimed at lowering the number of votes needed to end a filibuster from three fifths, or 60, to a simple majority.

Some lawmakers have said they fear Republicans will later change the rules to eliminate minority-party filibusters of legislation - a longstanding rule meant to force Republicans and Democrats to compromise - although McConnell said this week he won't do that.

The Senate on Thursday voted 55-45 to successfully filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.

The Republicans' decision to effectively end their ability to block a high court nomination with a filibuster will have long-term impact by heightening partisanship and politicization of the Senate and the Supreme Court, lawmakers and experts said. "This is the latest escalation in the left's never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet, and it can not and will not stand".

Democrats accuse Gorsuch of being so conservative as to be outside the judicial mainstream, favoring corporate interests over ordinary Americans in legal opinions, and displaying insufficient independence from Trump.

"That's why this is an especially sad state of affairs", Grassley said.

Four Democrats joined Republicans: Sens.

The vote - entirely along party lines - was 52 to make the change and 48 against.

Schumer said the real extreme option was when McConnell refused to even allow President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing.

Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat court's 5-4 conservative majority, enable Trump to leave an indelible mark on America's highest judicial body and fulfill a top campaign promise by the Republican president. "We didn't hear two words in the long speech of Senator McConnell: Merrick Garland". And because they're still smarting from Senate Republican's refusal to hold a hearing on President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland for ten months past year, that's exactly what Senate Democrats planned to do. "The country will never forget that these Republicans blindly enabled a reckless president under gathering clouds of investigation to steal a seat on the Supreme Court and enshrine his unsafe agenda for a lifetime". McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham of SC say presidents could choose nominees with more extreme views because they wouldn't need bipartisan support for confirmation.

Here's how the nuclear option went down: First, Sen.

Once McConnell has finally positioned to re-vote on breaking the filibuster, he could make a point of order that it should take 51 votes instead of 60 to overcome a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee - this is the nuclear option.

  • Larry Hoffman