US Republicans consider ′nuclear option′ to push Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation | News | DW | 03.04.2017
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US Republicans consider 'nuclear option' to push Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation

Republicans have indicated they are prepared to change the Senate rules to ensure that US President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is confirmed. Democrats have pledged to filibuster a confirmation vote.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he may change Senate rules to advance a final vote to confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The threat to change Senate procedural rules - sometimes called the "nuclear option" - came after Democrats on Monday gathered enough support to block a cloture vote, which would end debate and allow the Senate to move to a confirmation vote. In a longstanding practice, 60 out of 100 votes are needed to overcome a procedural hurdle to move to the final vote.

Democrats have been blocking a confirmation vote; a practice known as a filibuster, and have 42 senators lined up against Gorsuch.

However, the Senate rule change would require just a simple majority for cloture vote before advancing to a final confirmation vote. Republicans enjoy a 52-seat majority over the Democrats' 46 seats, effectively making a final vote to confirm Gorsuch a formality should the "nuclear option" be triggered.

A simple majority is required in the final vote to pass a Supreme Court confirmation. The Senate is scheduled to vote on Friday.

Earlier Monday, a Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to take Gorsuch's nomination through to a Senate vote.

Nuclear option

Implementing the so-called nuclear option could set the stage for greater partisanship in the Senate. Some analysts argue it may even lead to ending the filibuster for normal legislation and completely change the way the Senate functions. Although the filibuster is not enshrined in the Constitution, it has played an important role for the minority in Congress as a means to delay or block a vote.

In 2013, when the Democrats had a majority, then Senate Majority leader Harry Reid used the nuclear option after Republicans blocked US President Barack Obama's nominees to an appellate court. But that decision excluded the Supreme Court.

At the time, McConnell said the Democrat's strategy would backfire.

"I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you will regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think."

However, it is possible that a similar move by Republicans on Supreme Court nominees may also backfire in future votes when they are in the minority.

cw/dm/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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