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Dem Senator Warns of 'Disastrously Radioactive' Fallout from Nuclear Option

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — A top Senate Democrat today argued that Senate Republicans detonating the “nuclear option” — lowering the threshold to advance Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination to a simply majority — as threatened if Gorsuch doesn’t clear 60 votes on Thursday would result in “dangerously and perhaps disastrously radioactive” fallout in the upper chamber.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who voted against Gorsuch in Monday’s party-line Senate Judiciary Committee vote, also told reporters outside of a closed Dems’ meeting on Capitol Hill today that there is “no equivalence between eliminating the 60-vote threshold for lower judgeships and cabinet officers” as then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did in 2013, “and now what the Senate Republican leadership proposes to do.”

“There is no equivalence between the Supreme Court and any other office in the United States government,” Blumenthal said. “The Supreme Court is for life, highest court in the land, it is different. And to eliminate the 60 vote threshold will be a disaster not only for the United States Senate, but for the court itself because it will drag it into the muck and mire of partisanship that has been so repugnant to the majority of American people.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was asked if pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) toward the nuclear option on Gorsuch is worth Dems having sapped power going forward.

“The bottom line is first, Gorsuch does not belong on the court. Second, it’s up to them not to invoke the nuclear option and it’s in their court,” Schumer replied. ‘They will lose if they do it. They will symbolize — it will be symbolized to the American people that Mitch McConnell will virtually do anything, anything even hurting the Senate, to get his way on the court. They first filibustered a record number of lower court nominees in 2012. He didn’t want them on the D.C. Court of Appeals. They in an unprecedented way blocked [Obama nominee] Judge Garland and now they are invoking the nuclear option. It will be on their shoulders.”

Schumer is still pressing for bipartisan negotiations on a consensus nominee.

“No Democratic president I know just consulted left wing groups and said who do you want, I’ll pick you. In fact, President Clinton called up Orrin Hatch when he wanted Bruce Babbitt. Hatch said, ‘No, why don’t you pick Breyer.’ He did,” he added. “President Obama called up a number of Republicans before he picked Merrick Garland. So this is dangerous, and if they keep doing this, their presidency’s going to continue to be a failure.”

“…It will mean two things. He won’t get anything done and his popularity with the American people, who are not far-right, will continue to sink. The far-right has always been on the outside throwing bombs. When they get on the inside, it’s going to be disaster for them because the American people don’t side with them.”

McConnell told reporters outside of a GOP meeting that the Gorsuch nomination “should be wrapped up sometime Friday” if Dems try to sustain their filibuster as expected Thursday.

“I got to the Senate in 2002. And immediately, Senator Schumer and Democratic — our Democratic colleagues instituted the idea of filibustering judges. Interestingly enough, if you look at our nation’s history, dating back to the birth of our country, there had never been a tradition of filibustering judges,” Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “And as many have pointed out, even people like Clarence Thomas were confirmed with 52 votes. Any one senator would have been able to require 60 votes to close off debate to get to that vote. So you see my point.”

“But I think it’s really important for people to realize that what the Democrats are proposing is that for the first time in American history, to have a partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court justice. You’ll recall not even in 2013 were they willing to suggest that that was appropriate. They carved out the Supreme Court altogether,” Cornyn added.

“But it really is up to them and to how we should proceed. But one way or the other, we will confirm Judge Gorsuch, and perhaps end up just returning us to the status quo before the George W. Bush administration when the Senate had had a 200-year-plus tradition of not filibustering judges.”