Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Senate plans to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court this week, whether the Democrats filibuster or not.
WALLACE: “You have promised that the Senate will confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court by Friday. Two questions, 1.) do you stand by that schedule, a Friday vote, and 2.) do you have the eight votes of Democrats so that you can beat a filibuster?”
MCCONNELL: “Well, look, Judge Gorsuch deserves to be confirmed, you know, unanimously well-qualified by the American Bar Association — my counterpart Sen. Schumer once called that the gold standard — in the majority 99 percent of the time, 97 percent of his rulings were unanimous, only reversed one time in a case in which he participated by the Supreme Court. President Obama’s former acting solicitor general said there’s no principled reason to oppose him. That’s why he’ll ultimately be confirmed. Exactly how that happens, Chris, will be up to our Democratic colleagues. I think it is noteworthy that no Supreme Court Justice has ever been stopped by a partisan filibuster. Ever. And in fact, the business of filibustering judges is a fairly recent invention ironically of the now-minority in the Senate, the Democrats, and in particular, Sen. Schumer, who convinced his colleagues after Bush 43 got elected, to start routinely filibustering judges.
WALLACE: “Let me ask you, though, some specific questions. Will there be a confirmation vote by Friday?”
MCCONNELL: “Yes, we’re going to confirm Judge Gorsuch this week.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press, McConnell’s “counterpart,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), promised a successful filibuster:
SCHUMER: “Let me make a proposal here to maybe break this problem that we have, okay? It looks like Gorsuch will not reach the 60 vote margin. So instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn’t President Trump, Democrats, and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee? Look, when a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules, you should change the nominee…”
Schumer may be right that the Republicans won’t have the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and confirm Gorsuch. So far, three Democrats have announced they would support Gorsuch. They are Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). According to CNN, 36 Democrats have announced they would oppose cloture, and an additional two have suggested they would vote against Gorsuch while not commenting publicly on whether they would oppose cloture. Those numbers would appear to fall short of the 41 votes needed to filibuster Gorsuch, but several Democrats have not commented publicly on the matter.
Should Schumer whip the votes necessary to filibuster, McConnell is poised to use the so-called “nuclear option,” which would suspend cloture rules and allow a simple majority vote to confirm Gorsuch. Democrats like Schumer are now loudly voicing their opposition to this tactic, the same tactic then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) deployed in 2013 to bypass the Republican filibuster in order to confirm lower court and executive branch nominees — a hypocrisy for which even left-leaning journalists like Chuck Todd have been needling the Democrats.
The Gorsuch confirmation vote is tentatively set for Friday.
UPDATE (1:37PM EST): The New York Times is now reporting that 41 Democratic Senators have announced their opposition to Gorsuch. Given this development, Republicans will not have the 60 votes they need to invoke cloture, which means that McConnell will indeed be forced to utilize the nuclear option in order to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote.
Photo credit: Senate Democrats/Gage Skidmore