Democrats voted Thursday morning to filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch, igniting a series of votes that will end later in the day with Republicans triggering the “nuclear option,” breaking the filibuster by changing the rules, and setting up a final vote Friday to confirm President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee.
“This will be the first — and last — partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nomination,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed, saying he didn’t relish changing the rules by arguing Democrats have forced him into it.
Just four Democrats joined Republicans in backing Judge Gorsuch, leaving them four votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster.
“The more we learned about Judge Gorsuch’s record, the more we didn’t like,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who’s led the filibuster.
He chided Mr. McConnell, saying Republicans should have accepted the outcome of the filibuster and withdrawn Judge Gorsuch, a pick who has earned strong praise from liberal and conservative legal scholars.
He said Mr. McConnell seemed bent on going nuclear from the beginning of this fight.
But Republicans said Mr. Schumer didn’t heed his own advice four years ago, when he helped ignite the nuclear option himself, curtailing the power of the filibuster for all executive branch and federal judicial nominees save for the Supreme Court. Republicans on Thursday will finish the job by applying the rule to the high court.
The change doesn’t eliminate the filibuster, but it does make it much easier to overcome. Rather than needing 60 votes, it will take just a simple majority to break a filibuster.