Democrats have the votes to block President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee under current rules, putting the Senate on a partisan collision course over confirming Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime appointment that could reverberate for decades, the Associated Press reports. Debate over the 49-year-old appellate judge gets under way in the Senate today, with Republicans and Democrats bitterly divided over the next steps. While Democrats have the votes for a filibuster, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ready to lead the GOP in a unilateral change in a Senate procedure so significant that it has been dubbed the “nuclear option.” The tactic would lower the confirmation threshold to a filibuster-proof simple majority of 51 votes in the 100-member Senate rather than the 60 votes currently needed to stop delaying tactics by opponents.
The likelihood of more partisan wrangling left GOP senators frustrated — and hoping that Democrats would relent in their opposition to Gorsuch. The nuclear option would be “damaging to the Senate, damaging to them and damaging to the country. Maybe a light will come on somewhere,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The Judiciary Committee yesterday voted 11-9, along party lines, to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, where McConnell has vowed he will be confirmed on Friday. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware became the key 41st vote for the Democrats, declaring that Gorsuch’s conservative record showed an activist approach to the law, often in favor of business interests, and that he evaded questions during his confirmation hearings. Coons also said that Republicans’ treatment of former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, left lasting scars after they denied him a hearing after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.