WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today on an 11-9 party-line vote, as one member of the committee confirmed that Democrats have the firepower they need to filibuster his nomination.
“Over the last couple months, the nominee’s opponents have tried to find a fault with him that will stick. And it just hasn’t worked,” Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said at the outset of the committee meeting to vote on sending Gorsuch’s nomination to the Senate floor.
“Once it became clear that Judge Gorsuch is ‘mainstream,’ opponents moved the goal posts and set a different test. Any nominee of President Trump’s, the minority leader said, must prove that he is ‘independent.’ Of course, there’s no debate on this question either,” Grassley added. “…If you want politics out of the process, the solution is judges who apply the law as it’s written, and leave the policy-making to the other branches.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said his “votes on Supreme Court nominations have never been about reflexive partisanship,” and he came into the Gorsuch nomination process with “concerns about his views and whether he would bring a partisan agenda to the court.”
“Judge Gorsuch did nothing to allay those fears. He in fact solidified them,” Leahy said. “…Some of the questions that I asked him were not intended to be difficult. Several could have been answered by any first-year law student, with ease. Yet, unless we were asking about fishing or basketball, Judge Gorsuch stonewalled and avoided any substantive response. He was excruciatingly evasive.”
“His sworn testimony and his approach to complying with this committee’s historic role in the confirmation process have been patronizing,” he added. “That is a disservice to the American people. And it is a blight on this confirmation process.”
The Senate floor vote on ending the Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch, which requires 60 votes, is expected Thursday.
Forty-one Democrats have already committed to sustaining the filibuster. The 41st to announce his decision was Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who said today, “I am not ready to end debate on this issue, so I will be voting against cloture unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid ‘the nuclear option’ and ensure that the process to fill the next vacancy on the court is not a narrowly partisan process, but rather an opportunity for both parties to weigh in and ensure we place a judge on the court who can secure support from members of both parties.”
Senate Republican leaders are on the precipice of detonating the “nuclear option,” though.
“What I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told NBC on Sunday. “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. It never happened before in history, in the whole history of the country.”
“In fact, filibustering judges at all is a rather recent phenomenon… Clarence Thomas was confirmed 52-48, the most controversial Supreme Court nominee in history,” he added. “And not a single senator said he has to get 60 votes.”
At a press conference with Judiciary Committee Republicans today, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) stressed that “there has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, and we will not start this week.”
“Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of the week by the United States Senate and take his place as the next Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court,” Cornyn said.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told NBC on Sunday that “instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn’t President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?”
“When a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules, you should change the nominee,” he added. “…Our Republican friends are acting like, you know, they’re a cat on the top of a tree and they have to jump off, with all the damage that entails. Come back off the tree, sit down and work with us and we will produce a mainstream nominee.”