The Gorsuch Filibuster Is Happening: Sen. Chris Coons Makes 41

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Democrats now have enough votes to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch after Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware became the 41st to oppose cloture, forcing a showdown with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the so-called “nuclear option” this week.

“This will be the last person that will be subject to a filibuster,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said at Monday’s hearing of the Judiciary Committee. “The Senate traditions are going to change over this man.”

As he announced his decision to the committee, Sen. Coons bemoaned the partisanship which led McConnell and his caucus to refuse even a hearing for Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, creating a “stolen seat” on the Supreme Court.

Democrats have also cited Gorsuch’s refusal to answer several questions during his committee hearing as well as his unsatisfactory answers about controversial decisions. His past rulings against workers, and his popularity with conservative groups such as the Federalist Society, suggest that he is not a mainstream nominee.

Those impressions were boosted when one of Gorsuch’s lower court rulings against a disabled student was overturned in March by a unanimous Supreme Court decision.

Later this afternoon, the Judiciary Committee voted on partisan lines to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, making the “nuclear option” showdown inevitable.

Republicans who used the filibuster to oppose Obama’s judicial nominations when they were out of power are now eager to change the rule so they can pack the federal bench with conservative ideologues like Gorsuch.

But Democrats seemed willing to face the possibility of being overruled by a partisan majority. “I cannot vote solely to protect an institution when the rights of hardworking Americans are at risk,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “Because I fear that the Senate I would be defending no longer exists.”


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