Senate Republicans 'Go Nuclear' Over Neil Gorsuch

The Senate debates the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court early Thursday morning. (Screen shot via C-SPAN)
Deirdre Fulton / Common Dreams

By Deirdre Fulton / Common DreamsUpdate:

Senate Republicans successfully rewrote the rules Thursday, with a 52-48 party-line vote triggering the so-called “nuclear option” that lowers the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.

NARAL Pro-Choice America called it “the day the Senate died.”

The chamber subsequently voted 55-45 to end debate on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination, with Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting with Republicans. The three Democrats, along with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, bucked their party’s filibuster earlier Thursday.

This sets up a vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation for Friday.


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., cast the 41st vote against cloture Thursday morning, teeing up the GOP’s “nuclear option” that would change the rules of the Senate.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to move forward with votes to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.

Even as that prospect loomed, advocacy groups pleaded with Republicans to change their nominee—not the rules.

“Today’s failure by the Senate Republicans to secure 60 votes to move forward on President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court speaks to the flaws of Judge Gorsuch, not the rules of the Senate,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, following the vote. “Instead of selecting a consensus nominee, the president chose someone who was proposed by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society and who has shown that he will not support the interests of everyday Americans. It’s time for the Republican Party to change the nominee, not the rules.”

Watch live here.


All eyes on are on the Senate on Thursday, as the showdown over Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, reaches its apex.

After Democrats mount their expected filibuster, denying a motion to end debate, Senate Republicans are set to “go nuclear” late Thursday morning, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ready to call for a vote on permanently changing chamber rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees. According to The Hill, “a 52-48 vote to change the rule is expected, with all Democrats and their Independent allies opposed.”

Roll Call has a rundown of how Thursday could play out:

“It’s a sad day,” Jennifer Lawless, a professor and director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, told USA Today. “The Senate was supposed to be better than this.”

McConnell has vowed that Gorsuch will be confirmed Friday, before the Senate leaves for a two-week recess.

Watch the proceedings live on C-SPAN.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups and the grass-roots resistance movement continue to protest Gorsuch as an extreme nominee with a troubling record on women’s rights, worker protections and big money in politics.

Eight people were reportedly arrested Thursday morning in the Hart Senate Office Building during a sit-in demanding a “no” vote on Gorsuch:

Opponents also held a rally in the Capitol on Thursday, at which Democratic senators—including Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who held the Senate floor for more than 15 hours against Gorsuch this week—once again voiced their reservations about both the nominee and the prospect of going nuclear.

Follow the action online:

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