Dems reach magic number to block Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced on Monday that he will oppose President Trump’s pick on a procedural vote where he will need the support of eight Democrats to cross a 60-vote threshold to end debate on Gorsuch. Coons is the 41st Democrat to back the filibuster.

“Throughout this process, I have kept an open mind. … I have decided that I will not support Judge Grouch’s nomination in the Judiciary Committee meeting today,” Coons said.

“I am not ready to end debate on this issue. So I will be voting against cloture,” Coons said, absent a deal to avoid the nuclear option.

Unless one of the 41 Democrats changes their vote, the filibuster of Gorsuch will be sustained in a vote later this week.Gorsuch’s path to overcoming a filibuster closed on Monday after Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Mark Warner (Va.) each announced they would oppose Gorsuch’s nomination.

Only four Democratic senators have said they will support President Trump’s pick on the initial vote to end debate: Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.).

Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are each up for reelection in states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. Bennet — who won reelection last year — has been under a microscope because of Gorsuch’s ties to Colorado and didn’t specify that he would vote for the nominee during a final vote.

Democrats have been under a mountain of pressure from liberal outside groups to block Gorsuch’s nomination. Progressives argue that voting for his nomination — even on a procedural vote — helps enable Trump and is out of line with what the base of the party wants.

With Democrats now able to block Gorsuch’s nomination, Republicans are expected to change the rules to circumvent the filibuster.

Though GOP leadership hasn’t specifically said it will use the “nuclear option,”  GOP senators appear resigned to lowering the vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations.

“If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we’re going to have to,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting on Gorsuch’s nomination. “I hate that. I really, really do.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican and a member of the committee, added that Gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of the week.

“If they’re going to oppose Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they will never vote and never support a nominee of this President,” he said.

With the Judiciary Committee expected to clear Gorsuch’s nomination on Monday, a full Senate vote is expected by the end of the week.

Republicans are quick to note that Democrats, then led by Majority LeaderHarry Reid (D-Nev.), used the nuclear option in 2013 to lower the confirmation threshold for lower court judges and executive nominees.

Graham compared Democratic complaints to an “arsonist complaining about the fire.”

Only a few Democrats remain undecided on Gorsuch’s nomination. Even if they agreed to support Gorsuch, Republicans would not have enough support to break a filibuster.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) have yet to announce their position on the nominee. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) previously left the door open to helping Trump’s pick overcome the procedural hurdle.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a close ally of Graham’s, told reporters late last week that he was having “conversations” about trying to find a deal to avoid changing the rules.

McCain, Graham and GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) are the three senators left from the 2005 “Gang of 14” who struck a deal to avoid nuking the filibuster.

Yet McCain lowered expectations that the talks would result in a similar deal.

“I’m having just a few conversations that I’ve been having for a long time with my friends on the Democratic side,” he said. “I’m not having negotiations, and there is no gang.”

Liberal outside groups quickly praised Democrats for opposing Gorsuch and argued that Republicans would be to blame if they change the rules to confirm him.

Mitch McConnell is openly threatening to blow up the Senate to move the nominee of a president under an active FBI investigation for ties to the Russian government. Let’s be clear: if the Republicans choose to blow up the Senate, it is their choice alone,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, added that Trump should withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination and put forward a “consensus nominee.”

“If Republicans go nuclear to confirm Gorsuch, that will be their fault and they will bear responsibility,” she said. “Democrats are absolutely right to stand on principle.”

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