A senior Senate Democrat on Sunday expressed displeasure at the idea of a Democratic filibuster over the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“I am not inclined to filibuster, even though I’m not inclined to vote for him,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told the regional news outlet VTDigger, which released the interview Monday.
Leahy’s comments came as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee invoked a rule to stall consideration of Gorsuch’s nomination for one week. Senate Republicans have said they hope to have a floor vote on confirming Gorsuch before the Senate leaves for its Easter recess.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he will oppose Gorsuch and encouraged support for a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination.
If the Senate filibusters Gorsuch’s nomination, two things could happen. Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the Senate, could find eight Democrats to join them in ending debate and moving the nomination to a floor vote. So far, no Democrats have said they support Gorsuch.
The other option is that the Senate adopts the so-called “nuclear option” that would require only a simple majority to approve Gorsuch’s nomination. While they were in the majority, Senate Democrats changed the Senate’s rules to allow that for lower-level judges, but not the Supreme Court.
Leahy said changing the Senate rules “hurts everybody.”
“I was very reluctant to see us use nuclear option, though I don’t think we would have seen any of President Obama’s judges go through without it,” he said.
Leahy added that while he has “seen nothing that will bring me to vote for Gorsuch,” he’ll hold off announcing his decision until he sees written answers to questions he gave Gorsuch.
“I suspect his written answers are not going to change my views,” Leahy said.
Leahy said he felt Gorsuch was not sufficiently forthcoming.
“I don’t have a problem with a conservative judge, I’ve voted for a lot of conservative judges,” Leahy said. “But when you have somebody who won’t answer basic questions on everything from freedom of religion to presidential litmus tests, that’s very troublesome.”
However, Leahy also bemoaned the fact that judicial nominations have become so enmeshed in partisan politics.
“If politics continues to pervade judicial nominations, Americans will lose faith in the judiciary,” Leahy said. “They have already lost faith in the presidency and the Congress, there’s not much trust left in government.”
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