Exclusive–Sen. Richard Blumenthal: To Confirm Judge Gorsuch ‘My Republican Colleagues Are Very Loathe to Change the 60-Vote Threshold’

Senate Cloture Vote

The Democratic Connecticut senator who once law clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the Roe v. Wade decision, told Breitbart News GOP senators will not change the rules to confirm Judge Neil McGill Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

“I think my Republican colleagues are very loathe to change the 60-vote threshold, which is so well established and important to the democratic process for this appointment,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that conducts confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees.

Blumenthal said regardless of Gorsuch’s qualifications, Senate Democrats are still seething over how the GOP blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. Both Garland and Gorsuch would fill the vacancy created by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin G. Scalia.

“A number of us are still deeply angry–even outraged–by what happened to Merrick Garland, because it was such a dereliction of duty by the Republicans,” he said. “We should never repeat a wrong by Republicans simply out of resentment. Our constitutional duty is to provide advice and consent and I will support giving this nominee a hearing and a vote.

The senator said he will scrutinize Gorsuch very closely to determine if he is out of the mainstream and only then would he move to do everything in his power to block his nomination.

Blumenthal said the 60-vote standard is the traditional measure of support and should not be wiped out of the Senate rules.

In the Senate, there is a two-step process for moving legislation forward. First, the chamber votes to end debate and then moves on to voting on the actual motion. The vote to end debate requires 60 votes, so a minority in the Senate with 41 votes can delay or block a motion from coming to a vote, when it would only need a simple majority to pass. When a faction works to extend debate this way, it is called a filibuster.

Before 2013, there was a 60-vote requirement to close debate, also called “cloture,” for confirmations of presidential appointees. But then-majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) challenged the filibuster rules for all confirmations, except for Supreme Court justices. It was a move called the “nuclear option,” which allowed Democrats to unlock Obama’s nominees for the federal bench, the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, and other positions.

Republicans with a 52-to-48 majority in the Senate have the votes to confirm Gorsuch, but they do not have the votes to end debate.

It is now highly unlikely that the GOP will accept a loss on Gorsuch–if all they have to do is finish dismantling the filibuster for justices. It is especially unlikely because the Democrats are the ones who changed the rules in the first place for every other position.

No Republican senator will say that the filibuster is going away for Supreme Court nominees, but they will all repeat a variation on this answer: “I will not comment on specific procedures, but I will say the nominee will be confirmed.”

This leaves the Democrats having to choose between triggering the rules change or acquiescing to the Republicans in order to preserve the filibuster as a symbol of the chamber’s cherished tradition of debate–knowing full well that if it was ever used to block a Supreme Court nominee, it would be challenged and discarded.

Blumenthal said the 60-vote threshold is the standard that has been applied to all Supreme Court nominees in recent history.

“We’re talking here about a nominee to the highest court in the land and a lifetime appointment,” he said. “It should be approved on more than a razor thin majority–it should be more solid, non-partisan consensus behind any nominee who is approved to this very, very significant position.”


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