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Neil Gorsuch Is Already Changing American Politics, And He Hasn’t Even Been Confirmed Yet

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed, but not before dividing Democrats and Republicans

On Thursday morning, Senate Democrats successfully filibustered the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, setting up an epic standoff between the two political parties.

Although Democrats ensured that Gorsuch will fail to earn the 60 votes needed to end the debate on his nomination, Republicans voted to go with the “nuclear option” to push his confirmation forward. As The New York Times reported, it will forever change the way we confirm all future Supreme Court nominees.

The nuclear option involved Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changing the Senate rules to allow a simple 51-majority vote—instead of the current 60 votes required by Senate rules—to end debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch (and all future judges). As ABC News explained, the rule change will have lasting effects on the type of judges nominated by either party in the future.

In the past, presidents have nominated moderate judges that would likely clear the 60-vote rule by appealing to both parties, but with a change to a simple majority vote, it may mean future choices will be more polarizing. ABC News reported:

The Democrats are saying now they are opposed to Gorsuch because he is extreme and was evasive during his confirmation hearing, but there’s no doubt that continued deployment of the "nuclear option" would mean extreme judicial choices on both sides of the aisle. Not choices like Gorsuch or for that matter, Merrick Garland. Garland was President Obama's choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia after he died, but Garland wasn't even given a hearing by Republicans. Part of the reason Democrats have decided to proceed with the filibuster is because of that decision by Republicans. Without needing to get those 60 votes, presidents will want to cater to their base even more with these critical choices.

The nuclear option was far from popular amongst all Republicans. During a Senate floor speech earlier this week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised his serious concerns over changing the rules saying, “What we are poised to do at the end of this week will have tremendous consequences and I fear that some day we will regret what we’re about to do. In fact, I'm confident we will." However, in the end McCain said regrettably he had no choice but to vote to change the rules in order to have a full “complement of justices” on the Supreme Court.

Here’s how the nuclear option went down: First, Sen. McConnell asked the Senate for a re-vote. Next, McConnell made a “point of order” that suggested it should only take a majority 51 votes to confirm Gorsuch, not 60 (aka the nuclear option).

While it may feel easy to look at Republicans and blame them in totality for this mess, it was actually Democrats who used the nuclear option first. The New York Times reported, Senate Democrats changed the rules first in 2013 to block Republicans from filibustering against presidential nominees to lower courts and to government positions. However, Democrats left the filibuster in place for Supreme Court nominees, believing the lifelong seat was too important for a simple majority vote.

The final vote on Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation is set for Friday.

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