Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress set the stage for what will be a fierce battle in Congress this week over the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Regardless of what happens, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there will be a vote and Gorsuch will be confirmed this week.
“How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends,” McConnell said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.” McConnell has said that if it’s necessary he will push for a change in the rules in order to allow Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority vote rather than the 60 needed now. That has long been known as the “nuclear option.”
In a separate interview, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer all but said McConnell will have to change the rules if he wants to confirm Gorsuch this week. “It’s highly, highly unlikely that he’ll get 60,” Schumer said, also on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Look, when a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules, you should change the nominee.”
So far only three Senate Democrats—Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana—have said they’ll support Gorsuch. Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, meaning they’d have to get the support of eight Democrats in order to avoid using the “nuclear option.
McConnell preemptively defended the “nuclear option” by invoking history and claiming that what Democrats are doing is unprecedented. “No Supreme Court justice has ever, in the history of our country, been stopped by a partisan filibuster, ever,” McConnell said on Fox News Sunday. Of course, the senator was ignoring how Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland last year. Sure, technically McConnell wasn’t lying because Republicans straight up refused to give Garland a hearing, but the result was really the same.
On Sunday, Donnelly became the third Democrat to say he will support Gorsuch. “After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers,” Donnelly said in a statement. The one thing the three Democrats who said they’ll vote for Gorsuch have in common? They’re up for re-election next year in a state Trump won by a significant margin.