Senate Republicans on Thursday voted to go “nuclear” on filibusters against all Supreme Court nominees after Democratic lawmakers successfully blocked a vote on nominee Neil Gorsuch—a move, critics say, that will fundamentally alter the nature of the Senate and push the legislative body toward greater partisanship.
Following the Democrats’ filibustering of the Gorsuch vote, the Senate voted 55-45 to end debate over his nomination, five votes below the 60 needed for cloture on the issue, which is needed to vote on the nominee’s confirmation. As a result, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put forward a motion to change Senate rules to prohibit filibusters against Supreme Court nominees—the so-called “nuclear option,” which effectively lowers the number of votes needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee from 60 to 51. The motion to keep the 60-vote threshold failed 48 to 52.
Without the option of a filibuster, senators can move through the confirmation process with a simple majority vote.
“In 20 or 30 or 40 years, we will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court, a day when we irrevocably moved further away from the principles our founders intended for these institutions: principles of bipartisanship, moderation, and consensus,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of Thursday’s votes.
Democrats laid the groundwork for the “nuclear option” under the Obama administration when they eliminated the filibuster for lower-court nominees but left it in place for Supreme Court nominees.
The Senate is expected to vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation on Friday.