After two weeks of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Neil Gorsuch of Denver’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals faces a third and final week of hurdles. By Friday, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee may finally replace the ninth seat left vacant after Antonin Scalia’s passing in early 2016. Though Democrats seem determined to do everything they can to stop that from happening.
The Road To The Filibuster
Unsurprisingly, Republicans both on and off the Judiciary Committee have showered Gorsuch with praise while tossing him a collection of softball questions about his judicial record. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), on the other hand, was nowhere near as nice. Franken was especially enraged over a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals case in which Gorsuch, citing what’s called the “plain meaning” rule, ruled in favor of TransAm over Alphonse Maddin in the infamous “frozen trucker” case. Maddin was fired for disobeying TransAm after his brakes froze, putting him in a perilous place between death by hypothermia or illegally delivering his shipment.
With those concerns, the investigation into Russia’s ties to the Trump administration, and the notion of payback for the Republicans decision to deny Merrick Garland a hearing prior to the election when President Obama nominated him to take Scalia’s seat, it appears that many Democrats are inclined to oppose Gorsuch and trigger a filibuster. Which could, in turn, trigger a response from Senate Republicans with far reaching implications.
And McConnell plans on using it. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, McConnell avoided saying the term “Nuclear Option” directly but argued that “Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed” regardless of Democrats’ intended filibuster. And by admitting “the way in which [Gorsuch’s confirmation” occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority,” the Senate majority leader all but confirmed that he will push a 2013 rule change (that was initiated by Democrats) further by changing the threshold from 60 votes to a simple majority for Supreme Court nominees. Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) later admitted as much on CNN.