Democrats have locked in the votes to block Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, meaning Republicans will have to take the extreme step of using the so-called “nuclear option” to blow up Senate rules to confirm him.
Democratic senators have been vowing for weeks to deny a vote to President Donald Trump’s court pick, and have been inching closer to the 41 members they needed to filibuster him. They hit the magic number on Monday when Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced he will join the blockade.
“I will be voting against cloture,” Coons said, using technical terms to mean he will support the Democratic filibuster, “unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid ‘the nuclear option’ and ensure that the process to fill the next vacancy on the Court is not a narrowly partisan process.”
Republicans now have a choice: cave to Democrats’ demands that Trump put forward a different nominee (highly unlikely) or unilaterally change the rules so they can confirm Gorsuch without Democrats (likely). They’re signaling they’re prepared to use the nuclear option, a rarely invoked procedural maneuver, to lower the threshold from 60 votes to 51 votes to advance a Supreme Court nominee. There are currently 52 Republicans, so the rule change would mean they could confirm Gorsuch on their own.