- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is praising fellow Republicans for blocking Democrats’ ability to filibuster judicial nominations - a move that led to confirmation of Neal Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is why I am unapologetic and I had a spring in my step as we left the Capitol,” Wicker said Tuesday in Jackson. “We are back to where we always were for 200 years, when judges were nominated and they were confirmed, and a lot of them were not confirmed - but it was done on an up-or-down vote.”

Gorsuch was sworn in Monday to a seat left vacant by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year did not allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia, saying he thought the next president should nominate someone to the court.

In 2016, Wicker led the campaign committee that helped the Republicans maintain their Senate majority. Once Republican Donald Trump became president, he nominated Gorsuch.

Senate Democrats tried to block the Gorsuch nomination with a filibuster, but Republicans used the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules, erasing the requirements of 60 votes to end a filibuster. That meant only a simple majority was needed in the 100-member Senate to confirm Gorsuch. The same margin will be needed for future nominees to the nation’s highest court, meaning the majority party will have less reason to consult the minority party on the nominations.

Wicker said each judicial nomination should be voted on, not blocked by a partisan filibuster.

“We … have ended an unfortunate 14-year experiment with partisan judicial filibusters,” Wicker said at a forum sponsored by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and the Mississippi Capitol press corps.

Wicker also said Tuesday that he supports Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike on Syria after chemical weapons attack killed more than 80 people in that country. Wicker said “Syria is complicated,” and he believes Syrian President Bashar Assad is “a war criminal.”

Wicker said former President Barack Obama’s health overhaul was “a worse failure than you can imagine,” although he said he has no objection to a provision that allows people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until turning 26.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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