Thursday afternoon, Republicans in the Senate exercised the “nuclear option,” changing the rules to allow a simple majority vote to confirm Supreme Court nominees. The move comes after only three Senate Democrats announced their intent to vote for Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the high court.
By a vote of to 55 to 45, all Republicans and three Democrats voted to proceed to final debate on the nomination of Gorsuch, 49, a Denver-based judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. If confirmed, Gorsuch would replace the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly last year, sparking a more than year-long feud among senators about the future makeup of the high court.
Gorsuch’s nomination advanced shortly after Republicans successfully voted to approve what is known as the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to allow the confirmation of Gorsuch and all other Supreme Court nominees by a simple-majority vote.
The long-anticipated change came after Democrats earlier blocked attempts to advance Gorsuch’s nomination. The change now means that all presidential nominees for executive branch positions and federal courts need only a simple-majority vote to be confirmed by senators.
Democrats weren’t the only ones upset over the move. Many Republicans regretted the change, but put the blame on Democrats who have polarized political debate. They point out that Democrats opened the door to the nuclear option themselves in 2013 over judicial appointments, making today’s move possible.
John McCain expressed concern that the Senate had ended 200 years of tradition of requiring 6o votes to confirm, but laid the blame at the feet of Democrats. He said the Senate nuclear option was the only way to break the stonewalling by Democrats.
The response by Democrats on Twitter was overly dramatic.
The dark deed is done. McConnell has just put a knife into the heart of our We the People republic.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 6, 2017
Merkley seems to forget he supported the nuclear option when Harry Reid started it all in 2013. Observe.
Thank you for your leadership RT @SenatorReid Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform. It had to be done.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) November 21, 2013
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand had a similar reaction, but got owned when she was reminded she supported the nuclear option in 2013.