DEMOCRATS in the US Senate say they now have enough votes to try to block Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch with a filibuster, setting up a showdown with Republicans who plan to confirm him anyway.
The crucial 41st vote came from Democratic Sen Chris Coons of Delaware, who announced his decision yesterday as the Senate Judiciary Committee met to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination.
Coons said that he had decided to oppose Gorsuch’s appointment over concerns that include the vague answers the Denver-based appeals court judge gave during his hearing. Coons’s opposition will prevent Republicans from reaching the 60 votes they need to move Gorsuch over procedural hurdles to a final Senate vote.
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Determined to confirm him despite Democratic objections, they will likely change Senate rules later this week to reduce the threshold from 60 to a simple majority.
The Republican-led Judiciary panel was expected to back Gorsuch and send his nomination to the full Senate, most likely on a near-party line vote.
Chairman Chuck Grassley strongly defended Gorsuch as a fair and independent man. He said Democrats had worked to try to find fault with him, but “that fault will not stick”.
Grassley said: “He’s a mainstream judge who’s earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar.”
However, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said: “Judge Gorsuch’s views were difficult to discern because he refused to answer questions, even basic questions that had been answered by previous nominees."
Democrats are angry in part because Republicans last year blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the job, Judge Merrick Garland, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying the next president should choose the nominee.
Forty Democrats and one independent have now said they will vote to block the Gorsuch nomination on a procedural cloture vote, a parliamentary step to advance the nomination, and oppose the choice.