Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader 2017

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Senate Republicans go ‘nuclear’ to confirm Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

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Andrew Couts

Tech

Published Apr 6, 2017   Updated May 24, 2021, 6:20 pm CDT

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.

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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.

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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.

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*First Published: Apr 6, 2017, 11:51 am CDT