A Senate panel is opening a weeklong partisan showdown over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is as confident as ever that Republicans will come out on top again.
“Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, adding, “how that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.”
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The Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines on Monday to favorably recommend Gorsuch to the full Senate. A confirmation vote is expected on Friday.
Democrats have secured the 41 votes to block Gorsuch with a filibuster after Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said he would vote against the nominee. The opposition will prevent Republicans from reaching the 60 votes they need to move Gorsuch over procedural hurdles to a final Senate vote, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be confirmed.
Determined to confirm him despite Democratic objections, McConnell has signaled he will likely change Senate rules later this week to reduce the threshold from 60 to a simple majority to get Gorsuch confirmed.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who faces a tough re-election in a state Trump won handily, announced his opposition on Sunday – A choice that will likely hurt his chances of re-election.
Another Democrat in a Republican-dominated state who is up for re-election next year, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, announced he would support the president’s nominee. Donnelly called Gorsuch, 49, a federal appeals court judge based in Denver, “a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers.”
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Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have vowed to block the nominee, infuriating Republicans, who argue the action is exceedingly rare for Supreme Court choices.
Although such a change in Senate rules might seem procedural or obscure, it is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option” because it would amount to a dramatic departure from Senate norms of bipartisanship and collegiality.
It would not be unprecedented. In 2013, Democrats were in the majority and upset about appellate court nominees getting blocked. They pushed through a rules change lowering the vote threshold on all nominees except for the Supreme Court — from 60 votes to a simple majority.
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In addition to Gorsuch, the Judiciary committee will be considering two other nominations — Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general and Rachel Brand to be associate attorney general. If confirmed, they will be the No. 2 and No. 3 officials at the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Regardless of the desperate Democratic opposition, Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed, and Democrats will be left as the whining minority once again.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.