UPDATE: 1:40 p.m. EDT — A third Senate Democrat said Sunday he would support Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, reducing the number of additional Democratic votes needed by Republicans to invoke cloture. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana said in a statement after meeting with Gorsuch, he believes the judge “is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law.
With a showdown likely before the end of the week on the nomination of Appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday there is no way the nomination will pass the 60-vote threshold necessary to beat a filibuster, opening the way for the so-called nuclear option.
Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump just a week into his presidency to fill the vacancy on the high court left by the death of Antonin Scalia more than a year ago. Former President Barack Obama nominated Appellate Judge Merrick Garland to fill that post but the Republican-controlled Senate refused even to hold a confirmation hearing on him.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve the nomination Monday, opening the way for a full Senate vote later in the week. To break a filibuster against the nomination, Republicans need the support of eight Democrats. So far only Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Carolina have said they would vote to advance the nomination to the Senate floor.
Republicans have characterized Gorsuch, who has sat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver for a decade, as an exceptional jurist while Democrats have described him as a tool of the right who sides with corporations against the little guy.
Schumer, D-N.Y., on NBC’s “Meet the Press” urged Republicans not to change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster, saying defeating the Gorsuch nomination would even up the partisan gamesmanship.
“Look, when a nominee doesn't get 60 votes, you shouldn't change the rules. You should change the nominee,” Schumer said.
“Each side didn't get their nominee. Let's sit down and come together. Our Republican friends are acting like, you know, they're a cat on the top of a tree and they have to jump off with all the damage that entails. Come back off the tree, sit down, and work with us and we will produce a mainstream nominee.”
Schumer said most nominees get the 60 votes needed for cloture — even Clarence Thomas, who was approved to the high court on a 52-48 vote, the closest ever.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on “Meet the Press” he is confident Gorsuch will be confirmed this week — one way or another. McConnell said Republicans were justified in not considering a Supreme Court nominee during an election year, despite Democrats’ feeling Garland was mistreated.
”What I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week. How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee, never happened before in history, the whole history of the country,” McConnell said.
“In fact, filibustering judges at all is a rather recent phenomenon, started by … Senator Schumer, after George Bush 43 got elected president. We didn't used to do this. Clarence Thomas was confirmed 52 to 48, the most controversial Supreme Court nominee in history. And not a single senator said, ‘He has to get 60 votes.’ “
McConnell is considering the so-called nuclear option, which would change Senate rules so that it would need only a majority to shut down a filibuster instead of 60 votes.