In the United States Senate, it’s known as the “nuclear option.” And it may well end the farce that Democrats have made of confirming Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer‘s threatened filibuster, political commentator Charles Krauthammer suggested the Senate channel the fictional character Dirty Harry, according to Fox News.
“If Schumer wants to trigger the nuclear option, I would quote Clint Eastwood with those immortal words: ‘Make My Day,’ because it would be a disaster for the Democrats,” Krauthammer said on Tuesday night’s “Special Report.”
Right now, Gorsuch’s confirmation is sharply divided along party lines, with not a single Democrat committed to confirm him. According to Senate rules, a filibuster would raise the vote threshold from 51 (a simple majority) to 60.
It’s a good rule, encouraging cooperation between parties. But it doesn’t work when the Democrats are blockheads.
Republicans have a safety valve: the constitutional option, nicknamed the “nuclear option.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can rule that the 60-vote supermajority is a constitutional question and put that to a majority vote.
If 51 senators agree, then the door is open to call for a simple majority vote for Gorsuch’s confirmation, even after a filibuster.
It wouldn’t be a first. Democrats used it in 2013 to change the rules of Senate confirmation for executive-branch nominees and lower-level federal judges, overriding the objections of Republicans, according to The Washington Post.
McConnell sounded confident in his belief that Gorsuch was headed for confirmation, announcing Tuesday that he expected Gorsuch to be confirmed by April 7.
“I don’t want to change the rules of the Senate, and I hope we’re not confronted with that choice,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told CNN. Collins might be one GOP Senator who would not support exercising the nuclear option.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if the Democrats force our hand, then we’ll be prepared to do what we need to do to confirm the judge,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said.
So the question for Democrats is, “Do I feel lucky?” They might really want to weigh the options before committing to a losing battle.
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