Senate Democrats now have enough support to filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, increasing the likelihood that Senate Republicans will modify Senate rules by invoking the so-called “nuclear option” to get President Donald Trump’s nominee confirmed.
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, of California, Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, and Mark Warner, of Virginia, all announced on Monday that they would oppose Gorsuch’s nomination.
That brings the number of Senators in support of a Gorsuch filibuster to 40, enough to prevent the Senate from advancing to a final vote on the Supreme Court nominee.
Senate Democrats, who take issue with Gorsuch’s originalist view of the Constitution, hope to block his nomination outright and force Trump to select another nominee.
“If Judge Gorsuch fails to garner 60 votes, the answer isn’t to irrevocably change the rules of the Senate; the answer is to change the nominee,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is spearheading the filibuster effort, said last week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised last week on Fox News Sunday that Gorsuch will be confirmed, no matter what.
“We will confirm Judge Gorsuch this week,” McConnell pledged.
The way in which Gorsuch is inevitably confirmed “is in the hands of the Democratic minority,” he added. “I think during the course of the week we will find out exactly how this will end.”
“But it will end with his confirmation,” the Kentucky Republican promised.
McConnell’s comments all but confirm that, if worse comes to worst, he will invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” which would modify Senate rules to override the Democratic filibuster and allow a vote on Gorsuch to move forward.
On Monday, Gorsuch is expected to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Republicans control, by a vote of 11-9.
McConnell is expected to set a vote for Thursday morning to end Senate debate on Gorsuch. If Republicans win the support of eight Democrats, they will have enough support to break Schumer’s filibuster without having to invoke the nuclear option.
Currently, four Democrats have expressed support for Gorsuch. Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
If Republicans break Schumer’s filibuster Thursday either by winning the support of four more Democrats or by successfully invoking the nuclear option, Gorsuch’s final confirmation vote will be set for Friday evening, where he’s likely to be confirmed on a simple majority vote.