The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee told reporters he was proud to have shepherded the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch through to his Senate confirmation Friday, which ended the era of filibustering Supreme Court nominations that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) began 16 years ago.
“There are a significant events that brought us to this point of adding a new member to the Supreme Court, but I think we just witnessed one of the most important votes that a member of the United States Senate can cast. Judge Gorsuch will be an independent voice on that Supreme Court. He proved that very much during the hearings,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).
The Senate approved President Donald Trump’s Gorsuch nomination 54-45, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding not so much because he was concerned there would be a tie, but because he and the other senators seem to enjoy his presence in the chamber.
The real fight was not the vote on the nomination, but whether to end debate and hold the vote at all.
Until Thursday, Senate rules required a 60-vote threshold to end debate and proceed to a nomination of a Supreme Court justice. That rule was challenged by the Republican majority and dismissed by the Republican majority.
Grassley said the dismissal of the 60-vote requirement returns the Senate to where it was before Democrats began the practice of blocking appointments with the filibuster, the practice of keeping debate open by holding on to a bloc of at least 41 votes.
Senate Democrats used the filibuster and the threat of a filibuster to jam up the judicial appointments of President George W. Bush beginning in 2001, and Senate Republicans followed suit for the appointments by President Barack Obama. In July 2013, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) challenged the use of the filibuster for any and all presidential appointments, except for Supreme Court justices.
“Those Democrats in 2001 poisoned the well that got us where we are,” Grassley said.
“It is up to Sen. Schumer, who started this whole slippery slope in 2001, to drill a new well that is not going to be poisoned. There will be both Republicans and Democrats to help him,” he said.
“Bottom line? It brings us back to where the Senate was from 1789 to 2001, when there wasn’t consideration of filibustering judges.”