(CN) – New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Thursday he will oppose the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and encouraged other Democrats to reject President Donald Trump’s choice, setting the stage for a Democratic filibuster of the judge’s confirmation.
“After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Schumer said in a Senate floor speech on Thursday morning. “His nomination will have a cloture vote. He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”
Shortly before Schumer’s announcement, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who faces re-election next year in a state Trump won, also announced his opposition.
Casey said he had “serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit.”
Gorsuch emerged largely unscathed in two days of hearings on his nomination, and he has firm Republican support in the GOP-controlled Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to recommend Gorsuch’s confirmation to the full Senate on April 3, and he is expected to be confirmed.
However, how that process plays out is anybody’s guess.
Democrats, still furious over the Republican’s blocking the confirmation of former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the vacancy, Merrick Garland, threatened to filibuster any high court nominee put forward by .President Donald Trump.
In response to this threat, Republicans suggested they could do away with the requirement that Supreme Court nominees be subject to a cloture vote, which ends debate on a subject on the Senate floor and requires 60 senators in support to pass.
Democrats went the same route with other executive branch nominees during the Obama administration to overcome united Republican opposition.
But in his floor speech on Thursday Schumer pleaded with Republicans not to change the rules just to push through their nominee.
“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,” Schumer said. “It’s to change the nominee.”
If that doesn’t happen, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would likely try to secure 60 votes to proceed to a confirmation vote, including eight Democrats.
That won’t be easy, as Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have already declared their opposition.
On Thursday, the Judiciary will hear from lawyers, former colleagues and various advocacy groups on Gorsuch’s nomination.
The American Bar Association has already given him a unanimous “well qualified” rating; Human Rights Campaign is opposed to his joining the high court.