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Senate votes to "go nuclear" for high court pick

Dems in Trump states pressured from both sides on court pick

Debate begins at 10:00 AM on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Most observers, even those who lament it, now see that the abolition of the Supreme Court filibuster was inevitable. One, Sen. Jeff Merkley of OR, spoke for more than 15 hours from Tuesday night through Wednesday morning. Such a move would be remarkable, especially for the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee, but has been repeatedly threatened by Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber's majority leader. At Rolling Stone, David Cohen asserts that Gorsuch's path to the Supreme Court "is riddled with historically and constitutionally exceptional circumstances".

Democrats opposed Gorsuch for a variety of reasons, including his conservative judicial philosophy, dissatisfaction with his answers during his confirmation hearings and a simmering resentment towards McConnell's decision to block any consideration of President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland previous year. After the standard 30 hours of debate, Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed.

But with the 55-45 tally, Republicans fell short of the 60-vote super-majority needed to overcome the Democratic procedural tactic called a filibuster and proceed to a vote in which senators could confirm him by a simple majority.

Republicans will move shortly to use the nuclear option to make it easier for them to break the filibuster - triggering a historic change to the Senate. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of ME and Democrat Chris Coons of DE were circulating a letter to colleagues Thursday in support of keeping the filibuster in place for legislation.

"We just could not get there", Coons said on NPR. It removes a 60-vote filibuster requirement for Neil Gorsuch. It is important to listen to the minority point of view, but giving the minority the ability to block legislation via filibuster only encourages the extreme lobbying and backroom deal-making that undercuts our democracy. Now, though, Republicans are on record unanimously carrying out the thing they said would be the end of the Senate as we know it.

"In fact, under a certain scenario, there could even be more than that", Trump said. At the time, McCain said he was concerned about the precedent it would set for the Senate's future.

The option refers to the GOP changing Senate rules to be able to successfully invoke cloture with just 52 votes, instead of 60.

Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, employed a number of parliamentary procedures to delay the decision, but his attempt joined a number of other futile efforts Democrats tried to stop Gorsuch's nomination throughout the week.

"It depends on the president and the makeup of Congress", the Illinois Democrat said. It could not be otherwise because the most basic principal upon which our republic is founded is majority rule.

"We labored for the better part of a year, working with our Republican colleagues". "Republican presidents can pick very conservative nominees and Democratic presidents can pick very progressive nominees". In twenty or thirty years nobody will even remember who Merrick Garland was and Mr. Justice Gorsuch will still be on the Court, doubtless plagiarizing yet another legal scholar's intellectual property. They also have expressed concern about confirming Trump's nominee at a time when ties between his team and Russian Federation have come under heavy scrutiny. Was it Judge Garland or Judge Gorsuch?

"It's been our belief since election night that Democrats' job is to do everything they can to block Trump's interest and agenda", said Heidi Hess, the senior campaign manager for Credo Action. John McCain told CNN.

"Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified".

Judge Gorsuch also proved to be an incredibly supportive mentor.

"This isn't really about the nominee anyway", McConnell said.

Republicans, including Graham, at the time bemoaned the maneuver, saying it would irrevocably change the institution for the worse and come back to bite both parties down the line.

So, for example, if cloture is approved on Gorsuch's nomination at 1 p.m. on Thursday, a final vote could happen at 7 p.m. on Friday.

The Senate has cleared the way for a Friday confirmation vote on President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court. You already deployed the nuclear option in 2013.

"I'm not regretful. I'm not wracked with guilt. The responsibility rests exclusively and squarely on their shoulders", he said.

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.