Republicans go nuclear: Neil Gorsuch gets cleared for Senate confirmation

The GOP ends a Democratic filibuster by changing the Senate rules

By Matthew Rozsa
April 6, 2017 9:33PM (UTC)
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(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The inevitable has occurred: Senate Democrats have followed through on their threat to filibuster Neil Gorsuch, and Senate Republicans have in turn deployed the nuclear option to push him through.

On early Thursday Senate Democrats filibustered Gorsuch — the second time in history that the tactic was successfully used against a Supreme Court nominee (the Democrats were determined to do so in retaliation for Republicans' refusal to even provide a hearing for President Barack Obama's final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland). In response, Senate Republicans eliminated the traditional rule that Supreme Court nominees had to be confirmed with at least 60 votes (that is, a filibuster-proof majority), instead altering the rules so that a simple majority vote alone can suffice. Because this move  eliminates centuries of precedent encouraging conciliation among America's senators has long been referred to as the "nuclear option."


As a result of this maneuvering, Gorsuch is now expected to be confirmed for a Supreme Court seat on Friday. Gorsuch follows the "textualist" school of thought in jurisprudence and is expected to couch his decisions in arguments connected to the original language of the law. He is also expected to provide a reliably conservative vote, joining other staunchly conservative judges like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The obstruction of Garland's nomination lasted 293 days, from the March day in 2016 when he was nominated by Obama until the day that Senate term expired. It had been 84 years since a Supreme Court judge was nominated during an election year, but on that occasion the nomination was confirmed.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Filibuster Neil Gorsuch Nuclear Option Senate Republicans