- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2017

The Senate’s most senior Democrat hinted he probably won’t join his party’s effort to filibuster JudgeNeil Gorsuch, as Democrats struggle to figure out how far they’ll go in trying to block President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, told the Vermont Digger this weekend that while he won’t support JudgeGorsuch’s nomination, he is “not inclined to filibuster.”

That contradicted the message most Democrats were trying to sell, and Mr. Leahy took to Twitter on Monday to walk back his comments somewhat.

“I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how JudgeGorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding,” Mr. Leahy tweeted.

The confusion was striking for Mr. Leahy, the most senior senator in the chamber and a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee who oversaw both of President Obama’s Supreme Court picks.

Earlier Monday, one of his fellow committee Democrats, Sen. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware, said Democrats will succeed in their filibuster, and Republicans will “almost certainly” have to resort to the so-called nuclear option to get JudgeGorsuch confirmed.

“Sen. [Charles E.] Schumer, our minority leader, has said it is going to be a 60-vote margin, and I doubt he is going to get 60 votes,” Mr. Coons said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Democrats forced a delay Monday on JudgeGorsuch’s nomination, using a committee rule that allows a one-week postponement on a vote. The vote will now happen April 3.

After that, Republicans will speed the nomination to the floor, hoping to confirm JudgeGorsuch before they leave for their spring break vacation.

For JudgeGorsuch to get a floor vote, he needs 60 senators to back him in order to overcome the filibuster.

But with Republicans only holding 52 seats, eight Democrats would have to break with their party leader to make that happen.

If he’s unable to reach the 60 votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled the Republicans will go “nuclear” and change the Senate rules to curtail the filibuster.

Democrats went “nuclear” in 2013 to aid Mr. Obama, reducing the filibuster threshold for judicial nominees except for the Supreme Court. Mr. Leahy seemed worried about inviting the GOP to change that rule.

“I do think the end of the filibuster hurts everybody,” Mr. Leahy told the Vermont Digger. “I was very reluctant to see us use the nuclear option.”

Despite his stated reluctance now, Mr. Leahy voted for the nuclear option in 2013.

Democrats say JudgeGorsuch has excellent legal credentials, but say he fails their ideological test after he wouldn’t commit to ruling their way on major cases such as campaign finance reform.

“I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation,” Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said on Monday.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania Democrat, have also announced their plans to vote against the judge.

“This isn’t about the nominee at all,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. “It’s about those on the far left who want to prevent our country from moving forward.”

Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said if the Democrats do launch a successful filibuster, “it would be a historic new low in judicial confirmation battles.”

“It would be the first time, if successful, in history that a filibuster has been used as a partisan veto to block a nominee with majority support,” Ms. Severino told The Washington Times.

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