The fighting is over in Congress and the austere body has confirmed Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick, as the newest judge on the nation’s highest court.
The fight was to the finish, resulting in a 54-45 confirmation vote which came 24 hours after a series of tense votes by Democrats who were trying to filibuster their way out of the appointment. Finally Mitch McConnell called for the “nuclear option,” to allow the confirmation to proceed without the previously needed super majority of 60 votes to pass.
McConnell did not apologize for his tough stand on the decision to opt for a simple majority to confirm the controversial supreme court nominee.
“This business of filibustering judges was a creation of Sen. [Chuck] Schumer,” McConnell said. He added that he is still opposed to ending the filibuster for legislation, which would be “what fundamentally changes the Senate.”
When Gorsuch is sworn in, which will most likely be early this week, the Supreme Court will be back up to its full complement of nine justices, a situation which hasn’t existed on the court since the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
Only three Democratic Senators joined will all the Republicans to confirm Gorsuch: Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Senator Schumer of New York was not happy with the outcome.
“They had many options and they chose, unfortunately, the nuclear option,” he said on the floor. “I believe it will make this body a more partisan place. It will make the cooling saucer of the Senate considerably hotter, and I believe it will make the Supreme Court a more partisan place.”
Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s choice for Supreme Court judge, seems poised to win approval from Congress.
Besides all the Republican senators, three Democratic senators have promised to vote for Gorsuch: Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, and there are 37 Democratic opponents.
While Donnelly declared his support for Gorsuch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was going head to head with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on this highly partisan issue. Republican Senators are determined to confirm Gorsuch this week, as early as Tuesday, even threatening to change the Senate rules to kill a filibuster for Supreme Court nominees on Friday.
Later Senator Jon Tester of Montana said he is planning on voting against the nominee’s and in support of a filibuster.
“I cannot support a nominee who refuses to answer important questions,” Tester said.
Donnelly expressed sympathy with the frustration of Democrats over last year’s Republican obstruction of President Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland, but he said that frustration should not get in the way of confirming Gorsuch.
“I was deeply disappointed by the way the most recent Supreme Court nominee, Judge Garland, was treated by the Senate,” Donnelly said, “but as senator, I can only vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor.”
Donnelly also said he is in favor of the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees, although he is against, and will not vote for, a Democratic filibuster.
Ranking Intelligence Committee Democrats Call for Independent Inquiry Into Russian Influence on Trump Campaign
The top leading congressional Democratic leaders on government intelligence, Senator Mark Warner and Representative Adam Schiff, agreed that there should be an independent commission to look into ties between the Trump election campaign and Russian officials.
“I do think the events of this week call out the need for an independent commission quite separate and apart from what we do in Congress,” Schiff said CBS current events program “Face the Nation.”
Later on Saturday Warner appeared on the NBC politics program “Meet the Press” and agreed with Schiff, adding that creating such an independent commission would be difficult politically. A law would have to be passed in congress, and then the president would have to sign it.
In addition to calling for an independent inquiry into the role the Russians played in the Trump campaign, Warner and Schiff, the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, were extremely critical of the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and his handling of is panel’s investigation. Nunes is being criticized for publicly announcing that Trump transition officials were put under surveillance inadvertently after the November election, without first informing his Democratic counterparts. He also is highly criticized for briefing President Trump and the White House on the issue.
“I am totally mystified by what Mr. Nunes has said,” Warner said. “I think it’s fairly mystifying, if not outrageous, that he’d make these claims, then goes down and briefs the White House.”