WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Republicans are scrambling to break up a mounting threat from Democrats to filibuster next week’s vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Standing outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon with Gorsuch’s former clerks, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on an increasing pool of Democrats to abandon their threat to filibuster the vote on Gorsuch’s nomination, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said will happen on April 7.
“It’s quite clear that if he isn’t qualified then nobody is,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And if you filibuster a judge like this it’s obvious then that you’d filibuster anyone.”
Sen. Ted Cruz argued Gorsuch’s nomination should win even more deference from Democrats because his seat was open during the election, the result of a Republican refusal to hold hearings on Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the seat following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
This gave voters the chance to be heard directly on the type of justice they would like to see on the court, Cruz reasoned.
“This election was in a very real sense a referendum on the Supreme Court,” Cruz said Wednesday.
Democrats have nevertheless put up a cacophony of objections to Gorsuch, most forcefully claiming that his rulings on the 10th Circuit have been skewed towards corporations. Even though Gorsuch emerged from four days of hearings on his nomination mostly unscathed, support in the Senate around a Democratic filibuster has solidified.
“If Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes, it’s not because Democrats are being obstructionist,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It’s because he failed to convince 60 senators that he belongs on the Supreme Court.”
On Wednesday Sen. Tim Kaine joined 31 other Democrats who have announced their opposition to Gorsuch, and joined a growing list of those willing to filibuster the judge.
Republicans would need to convince eight Democrats to vote yes on a procedural vote ahead of Gorsuch’s nomination in order to break a filibuster and move to a majority vote on his confirmation. But even if Republicans are unable to get to 60 votes on the procedural measure, which is known as cloture, they could simply change the rules in the Senate to lower the number of votes required to move forward on Gorsuch’s nomination.
Democrats took this step in 2013 when Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s appointments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, though they left the 60-vote measure intact for Supreme Court nominees.
This has left Republicans confident that Gorsuch will take his seat on the court with or without bipartisan support.
“I’m here to tell you he’s going to be on the Supreme Court because he’s earned the right to be there,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at the press conference. “The only question is how, it’s not even when.”
Part of the reason Democrats have been emboldened in their filibuster promise in recent days was evident during Wednesday’s press conference, as a dozen or so protestors shouted slogans like “our rights, our court” in an attempt to drown out the Republicans.
Pressure to oppose Gorsuch at all costs has strengthened from the liberal roots of the party, leaving Democrats with little reason bend to Republican pleas.