US Republican Senators are expected to invoke the “nuclear option” Thursday to force through President Donald Trump’s nominee to the US Supreme Court.
The move would change Senate procedures and would remove “the last shred of bipartisanship in the Senate confirmation process,” warned Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who has led a campaign to halt Trump’s court nomination.
Democratic Senators have actively sought to block the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who some say would be the most conservative judge to sit on the country’s highest court.
In what is called a filibuster, a protest tactic to delay and frustrate Senate procedure, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley delivered a 15.5 hour uninterrupted speech overnight Wednesday denouncing Gorsuch.
As long as a Senator keeps talking during a filibuster, Senate business cannot proceed.
That is unless enough votes are gathered to halt the protest and bring a motion to a vote. And therein lies the rub.
Typically, 60 votes are needed to both halt a filibuster and confirm presidential nominations. But Republicans control 52 of 100 seats, and with US politics so bitterly divided, Republicans are unlikely to sway enough Democrats to move Gorsuch’s nomination forward.
Republicans are expected to vote Thursday on ending the filibuster, but so far, they’ve not managed to muster the needed eight Democrats to reach 60 votes.
Their solution, as threatened by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and encouraged by President Trump himself, the nuclear option, which would revise Senate rules requiring a simple majority to confirm Gorsuch.
The rule change would be permanent unless lawmakers agree to reverse it, said Molly Reynolds a fellow at the Brookings Institute think tank to euronews.
“If the Senate changes its precedents for the consideration of Supreme Court nominees, it could be reversed,” she said. “The most likely (but not only avenue) would be to use the same process by which Republicans are likely to change the precedent today, but in reverse.”
Russell Wheeler an expert on US courts for the Brookings Institute, said the rule change could further entrench Democrats against Republicans and encourage the confirmation of partisan nominations to the Supreme Court.
“An ideologically-driven administration would eschew middle-of-the-road judges,” Wheeler said to Reuters. “They would stack the court with ideological soulmates.”
Senator John McCain, known in US political circles as a defender of Senate traditions, said he was wary of what his fellow Republicans were considering – even if he said he would support the nuclear option.
“What we are about to do at the end of this week will have tremendous consequences, and I fear that some day we will regret what we’re about to do,” McCain said. “In fact, I’m confident we will.”
Senators are expected to confirm Gorsuch on Friday.
His confirmation, it’s feared, would tilt the ideological scale of the court to the right as currently, the Supreme Court is evenly balanced with eight justices.
Supreme Court Justices hold their positions for life and are often the longest-lasting imprint of a presidential legacy as the court often rules on the constitutionality of US laws.