Gorsuch's Nomination = Filibuster vs Nuclear Option

From Left to Right: Sen Mitch McConnell, Sen Chuck Schumer

From Left to Right: Sen Mitch McConnell, Sen Chuck Schumer

by Paul Notice

GOP senators are threatening to unveil the nuclear option, for the nomination of judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Currently, Senate Democrats are filibustering Gorsuch's nomination, and its unclear what their response will be if GOP senators decide to move forward with the infamous Nuclear Option. But what does that all mean?

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Sen. Chuck Schumer

How to Filibuster:

  1. Wait for Opposition to call bill/nomination to the floor of the senate.
  2. Floor is open to debate on measure. Under Senate rules, you need 60 votes to end debate (👈🏾 that's called cloture).
  3. Form a coalition that will successfully deny the 60 votes necessary for cloture in that measure.
  4. Refuse to give up the floor, or to close debate, with previously formed coalition refusing to vote for cloture.
  5. Watch Opposition grumble, then remove the bill/nomination from the floor of the senate.

Side Note:

In the old days, you had to remain on the senate floor throughout the filibuster - that's what lead to the that infamous scene in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." However, today senators simply need to show that they have the votes to refuse to end debate, and the Senate will most likely remove on the bill or nomination from the senate floor.

Sen. Mitch McConnell  

Sen. Mitch McConnell  

Nuclear Option:

  1. Call for cloture on debate over measure without the required 60+ votes.  *Opposition must respond that this violates senate rules.
  2. **Senate Parliamentarian is called, and will confirm that senate rules dictate a minimum 60-40 vote to end debate.
  3. Over rule the Parliamentarian with a simple majority vote.
  4. Call for majority vote to change senate rules for cloture on measure (you can decide on what measures to including types of confirmations, motions and bills introduced to the floor.
  5. You now have the power to vote for any measure you've chosen, by whatever number of votes you've decided, by a simple majority vote.
Sen. Harry Reid

Sen. Harry Reid

In 2013, then Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid originated the idea, but held off on applying it to a SCOTUS nomination. It was in response to the then GOP minority effectively stopping President Obama's judicial nominations for the lower courts.

GOP senator Mitchell McConnell angrily remarked: "I suggest my colleagues take a time out, and stop trying to jam us. How many times have we've been threatened by colleagues?" And later promising: "You'll regret it."

From left to right: Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump

From left to right: Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump

Why are Dems filibustering Gorsuch?

In the surface, senate Dems claim it's because of Gorsuch's record of siding with corporations over "the little guy." They actually said that a lot during the confirmation. However, underneath, it's less about Neil Gorsuch, and more about Merrick Garland. Scalia died in February 2016, but for the full year following Scalia's death, McConnell lead the judiciary committee to deny Garland's confirmation from reaching the senate floor. Speculation of Garland being a centrist democrat (and straight White male), led many to believe that GOP senators would be hard pressed to publicly vote against the nomination.

This is how GOP senators were able to bring Neil Gorsuch's nomination for SCOTUS to the floor, nearly 14 months after the death of Justice Scalia.



 *Pay attention to this detail, since democrats might "spike the ball" to avoid the nuclear option from completing.

**The current Parliamentarian is Elizabeth MacDonough, appointed in 2012 by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.. She's the first woman to become Parliamentarian U.S. history.