WASHINGTON—Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) signaled she might vote for the constitutional option to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which would make her the second member of the Gang of 14 to do so, and move Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) one vote closer to the 50 that he needs to make it happen.
Last week Collins said Gorsuch was “unquestionably qualified” for the Supreme Court, and that by trying to filibuster President Trump’s chosen successor to Antonin Scalia, Senate Democrats were “playing politics with judicial nominees,” damaging the Senate as an institution and in the eyes of the American people. A bipartisan majority of 55 senators have pledged to vote to confirm Gorsuch.
Now that it is official that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has the 41 votes necessary to sustain a filibuster to block Gorsuch—in fact, he now has 42, with another four undecided—Collins is suggesting she might support the constitutional option.
“First of all, I think it’s important to recognize that there is absolutely no basis for filibustering such an eminently qualified nominee,” Collins said. “And I am very troubled by the fact that the Democrats have put us in this situation.”
Senate Democrats forced through a new precedent in 2013 that filibusters do not apply to lower federal court nominees. In terms of whether she would support a procedural ruling that this precedent—the constitutional option—also applies to nominees for the Supreme Court, Collins added, “If it’s necessary in order to get him confirmed I may have to vote that way, but I certainly don’t want to.”
If Collins votes for the ruling, McConnell needs two of the following four senators to get to 50: John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Some of them have expressed concerns, but none have taken an express position one way or the other.
Once there are 50 votes, Vice President Mike Pence can cast the tie-breaking vote to invoke the constitutional option, followed by a vote to confirm Gorsuch. A vote on the constitutional option is expected on Friday.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.