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Democrats Launch Plan to Filibuster Gorsuch Nomination

03-23-2017
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The top Senate Democrat announced Thursday he plans to lead a filibuster of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.

"I have concluded that I cannot support Neil Gorsuch's nomination," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor. "My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same."

Many Democrats are still furious that Senate Republicans blocked former president Barack Obama from replacing deceased Justice Antonin Scalia with his own pick. They may have enough votes to temporarily block the Gorsuch nomination if Republicans are unable to muster 60 votes to end the filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will likely be forced to take the same step his Democratic predecessor did and change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch.

Some have called that the "nuclear option." It would change Senate rules to end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to be confirmed with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes now required to move forward.

Here's what it would mean for Republicans to GO NUCLEAR:

The filibuster news comes as the Gorsuch confirmation hearings are wrapping up, with witnesses appearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hannah Smith, two-time Supreme Court clerk and a member of the Becket Fund legal teams that defended clients like Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor, is one of the people testifying before the committee.

"I think that Judge Gorsuch will be an excellent associate justice on the Supreme Court," Smith said.

"He's written 800 opinions, and of those opinions, the majority of them by far – about 98 percent – have been unanimous opinions, which just shows what a consensus builder he is and how he has written opinions that all of his colleagues can join," she added.

Thursday's hearing also included testimony from friends, former colleagues, and law clerks of the nominee, including former law partner Jeff Lamken who helped to recruit Gorsuch after his studies at Oxford.

"Some people say, 'If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,'" Lamken told the committee. "Those people never got to know Neil Gorsuch, his wife, Louise, or his family."

"If something happens to me and my wife, Neil is in line to inherit our children," he said.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign - an advocacy group for gay rights, argued against Pres. Trump's Supreme Court nominee suggesting his appointment was a threat to the LGBTQ community.

"Judge Gorsuch's record and statements place him squarely in he mold of Justice Scalia, who consistently demeaned and denied the dignity of LGBTQ people from the bench," she said noting Scalia sided with the minority in landmark cases concerning same-sex legal challenges.

But Peter Kirsanow, with the U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, offered a different picture of the federal jurist.

"Judge Gorsuch's record indicates that he is a careful judge with great respect for our constitutional order," he told the committee. "His opinions are within the jurisprudential mainstream. It appears he will faithfully apply the law to protect the rights of all Americans."

Senate Republicans have said nothing will stop Judge Gorsuch from becoming the next justice on the Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association has already given Gorsuch a unanimous "well qualified" rating.

The ABA's Nancy Scott Degan says their committee evaluating Supreme Court nominees doesn't give a well-qualified rating lightly. She says it's based on integrity, professional competence, and temperament.

"Why anybody in this body would ever vote against you I'll never understand," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

After today's hearings conclude, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to send the nominee to the full Senate with a positive, negative, or neutral rating.

 

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