Sen. Schumer Declares Democrats Will Filibuster Gorsuch Nomination

Mar 23, 2017
Originally published on March 23, 2017 9:21 pm
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is telling Democrats to filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. His announcement on the Senate floor today sets up a possible showdown with Republican leaders. They might try to change Senate rules to force a quick vote. NPR's Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Schumer had this to say.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: To my Republican friends who think that if Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes we ought to change the rules, I say if this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President Obama's nominees and George Bush's last two nominees, the answer isn't to change the rules. It's to change the nominee.

TOTENBERG: At the White House, President Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, reacted quickly.

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SEAN SPICER: We call on Senator Schumer to follow Democrats to abandon this attempt to block Judge Gorsuch from receiving a fair up or down vote that he and the American people have voted for.

TOTENBERG: Democrats changed the Senate rules in 2013 to require only a simple majority vote to cut off debate on lower court nominations, but they left in place the super majority requirement to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominations.

Republicans control 52 Senate seats and would need eight Democrats to join them to move Gorsuch's nomination forward under current Senate rules. Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that if he can't get those eight votes, he will trigger the so-called nuclear option, changing the Senate rules to allow confirmation of Supreme Court justices with a simple majority.

Now in the minority, the Democrats have few cards to play, and several Democratic senators and their aides say that Schumer's filibuster announcement was an attempt to strengthen his hand in negotiations with McConnell. What Democrats want, according to sources, is a face-saving way to let the vote go forward and avoid the nuclear option.

For now, McConnell is holding firm. He said he plans to hold a final vote to confirm Gorsuch by the time the Senate leaves for its two-week spring recess April 7. That's only four days after the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination, leaving what Democrats say is too little time for debate, so the dealing continues.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.