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Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch gestures as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The SCOTUS vote will be a political battle, and Republicans have the bigger weapon


The SCOTUS vote will be a political battle, and Republicans have the bigger weapon

WATCH | The year-long battle over the Supreme Court nomination will culminate next week in a confirmation vote that is expected to be a dramatic Senate showdown. We've seen this before. One party digs their heels in and filibusters, but this time Republicans have a "nuclear" option.

How we got here 

Last year, Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for then-President Obama's Supreme Court nomination Merrick Garland, arguing that the Senate should not confirm a new justice until after the election. 

It wasn't the first time lawmakers stalled on a Supreme Court nomination. In 1992, Joe Biden made the same argument while he was a Senator, arguing that the Senate should not confirm any new justices during the election season. 

Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that Obama was politicizing the nomination for the election. 

Now Democrats are using a similar tactic to oppose President Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch, claiming that Gorsuch is not a mainstream nominee.

"He is not a balls and strikes guy, but rather represents the hard-right special interest wing of American politics," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference this week. 


Schumer has said Senate Democrats intend to filibuster Gorsuch's confirmation vote. What does that mean? Democrats plan to hijack the debate over Gorsuch's nomination, preventing it from going to a final vote. 

The only way to break a filibuster is to invoke cloture, and it takes 60 votes to do that. Republicans only have 52 seats, so they will need to convince at least eight Democrats to support Gorsuch and vote to break the filibuster. 

The nuclear option 

If they can't get enough Democrats on board, Republicans have another weapon in this political battle, the so-called "nuclear option."

Republicans can vote to change Senate rules so that it would only take a simple majority vote to break a filibuster, essentially killing the filibuster in the Senate. 

That would dramatically change the way the Senate debates future legislation and would undoubtedly lead to less bi-partisanship. 

Diffusing the bomb 

McConnell has said that he is confident Republicans will have the votes to go nuclear if they have to. 

Republicans ran on a promise to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat with a conservative justice, and after failing to deliver on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, Republicans can't afford to lose this fight. 

But they may not have to use their nuclear option if Red-state Democrats decide to surrender.

Two Democratic Senators have already announced they will support Gorsuch's confirmation. 

Both Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia) represent states where Trump won by large margins. 

Other Democrats from Red states who worried about losing in the 2018 midterms could soon follow suit. 

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