Nuclear winter is coming: Democrats say they have the votes to filibuster Neil Gorsuch — but will it matter?

Senate Democrats say at least 41 members will vote against Gorsuch — but GOP can still change the rules

Published April 3, 2017 10:35PM (EDT)

 (AP/Evan Vucci/Jeff Malet, maletphoto)
(AP/Evan Vucci/Jeff Malet, maletphoto)

On Monday, Senate Democrats announced they have enough votes to officially filibuster the nomination of federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

That announcement, however, didn’t stop their Republican counterparts from moving Gorsuch’s nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote of 11-9. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee now heads to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

The current and former top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy, joined with Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Chris Coons of Delaware to announce on Monday that they will vote against cloture on Trump's nominee.

Two Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King of Main remain undecided.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the chamber’s majority Republicans, has vowed that he will ensure Gorsuch is confirmed and appointed to the court. “Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” McConnell said in a Sunday interview with NBC. “How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends.”

Democrats say they have 41 senators willing to vote against Gorsuch’s nomination. Under traditional Senate rules, a judicial nomination requires 60 of the 100 senators to confirm. Back when Democrats had both the White House and the Senate, however, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules to allow confirmation with only a majority vote in response to repeated Republican filibusters of Obama nominees. Those rule changes did not apply to Supreme Court nominations, however.

In a separate interview with NBC, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans should “try to come up with a mainstream nominee” by working with Democrats.

"Look, when a nominee doesn't get 60 votes, you shouldn't change the rules, you should change the nominee," said Schumer.

McConnell has said that Democrats would have opposed any of Trump’s nominees so long as they were not involved in choosing them.

“Our friends across the aisle made it clear then that their opposition to this nominee would have nothing to do with the nominee himself,” he said in a statement.

“In fact, I said we could expect to hear a number of convoluted excuses as to why they wouldn’t support the president’s yet-to-be-named nominee — excuses that would amount to little more than their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election.”

Democrats have argued that the vacant spot on the court is “a stolen seat,” after the GOP Senate majority refused even to consider federal Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama to fill the position formerly occupied by the late Antonin Scalia, a hero to the conservative movement.

By Matthew Sheffield

Matthew Sheffield is a national correspondent for The Young Turks. He is also the host of the podcast "Theory of Change." You can follow him on Twitter.

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