From the moment Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold even a committee hearing for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat that became vacant after the death of Antonin Scalia, this day has probably been inevitable. Donald Trump’s victory in November meant that the next nominee, following the stillborn candidacy of Garland, would be significantly more conservative, and Democrats would have the option of returning the favor by blocking back.
Trump’s choice, Neil Gorsuch, was indeed a conservative in Scalia’s image, and this morning, 45 Senate Democrats united to successfully filibuster his nomination to the Supreme Court. It’s the first time in almost 50 years such a drastic action has been taken, and it will almost definitely precipitate an even more drastic action when McConnell invokes the “nuclear option,” which would allow Gorsuch’s confirmation based on a simple 51-vote majority.
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked the nuclear option in 2013 on behalf of President Obama, but maintained the 60-vote threshold for the Supreme Court—a “sacred” rule, as Politico has it. That sanctity, though, is not so inviolable after all, as McConnell is expected to change the rules even for the highest chamber in the land. Once he accomplishes that, he’ll hold a cloture vote, and Gorsuch will be confirmed by Senate Republicans, who hold a chamber majority.
John McCain, fake maverick, probably summed it up best:
“Bad day for Democracy,” fumed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as he entered the Senate chamber.
Read our feature on Garland, Gorsuch, and the complicated history of Supreme Court nominations, here.