Led by minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Senate Democrats Thursday filibustered the unquestionably and highly qualified Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch from advancing to a final confirmation vote – forcing majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Republicans to change Senate rules by employing the so-called “nuclear option” to allow Gorsuch and future Supreme Court nominees to reach confirmation by a simple 51-vote majority.
43 Democrats voted to support a filibuster against cloture – a procedural motion reqiring the support of 60 senators to pass – effectively halting the Gorsuch nomination.
Republicans now begin a series of procedural motions culminating with a change in the Senate rules for the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees. The rules change enables Gorsuch to gain Senate confirmation by a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the current rules-derived 60-vote threshold. The final confirmation vote will be held Friday.
In 2013, Democrats, led by now thankfully retired Harry Reid (D-NV) deployed the nuclear option as a way to force through Obama nominees to the lower court and cabinet, but kept the filibuster in place for Supreme Court nominees. Unwittingly, Democrats – fully expecting that Hillary Clinton would become president in 2016, never were concerned that the tactic would be used against them.
As recently as October 2016, Reid threatened to use the “nuclear option” to help a potential President Clinton get a SCOTUS nominee past an obstructing GOP Senate:
“I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority. It takes only a simple majority anymore. And, it’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ’em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again,” Reid told TPM in a wide-ranging interview about his time in the Senate and his legacy. “They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion,” Reid said, snapping his fingers together. “So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”
The nuclear option has come back full circle to blow up in the Democrats’ faces. Thank you, Harry Reid.