Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, passed an important hurdle Monday when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance his nomination. The vote was 11 to 9, along party lines.
Senate Democrats failed to force an error from the nominee in over 20 hours of hearings and are left debating how to proceed with their opposition to Trump’s pick.
3 Democrats have said they will support Judge Gorsuch: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, The Wall Street Journal reports. All three are up for reelection in 2018 and are from states President Trump won by over 5%.
Five more Democrat votes are needed to prevent a filibusterer of the nomination, which would prevent a vote from taking place. Republicans have threatened to retaliate and drop the “nuclear option” to confirm the nominee with a simple majority if the Democrats try to block him.
Critics of Democrat obstruction advise them hold the filibuster since Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation will not swing the balance of the court. Democrats may need it for leverage on a possible second or even third appointee from President Trump in the next 4 or 8 years. Four of the 8 living justices are over 78 years old and the average age is nearly 70.
Others argue the filibuster doesn’t mean anything anymore, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel could invoke the nuclear option for the next nominee anyway. Democrats should therefore fight and obstruct with every option they have while momentum is on their side.
“The filibuster is effectively gone. If you don’t filibuster Gorsuch, McConnell will just get rid of it next time,” said Adam Jentleson, an adviser to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, according to CNN.
“Next time, the balance of the court would be at stake, so the motivation to go nuclear is even stronger. It goes both ways,” Jentleson continued. “It’s false to say Democrats don’t care. But I think it’s just not their choice … Reid put up with years and years of incredible amounts of obstruction, and pressure from his base, before he finally went nuclear… McConnell, by sort of signaling he’s going to do it beforehand — literally the very first opportunity to go nuclear, he’s pulling the trigger.”
However, some Democrats have indicated they will vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch if they are guaranteed the filibuster will remain for the next nominee.