President Trump endorsed the use of the “nuclear option” Wednesday if needed to achieve Senate confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.
Citing partisan gridlock in Washington, Trump said at a White House event that he would support the approval of Colorado federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch with 51 votes, instead of the 60 that have traditionally been required in the Senate to break a filibuster.
“If we end up with that gridlock I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear,’ ” Trump said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect. I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.’ ”
Trump’s remarks come as Democrats have launched a pitched battle over Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), cast the binary option of either confirming Gorsuch with Democratic support or changing the filibuster rules to push him through as a “false choice.”
“If this nominee cannot meet the same standard that Republicans insisted upon for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees — 60 votes in the Senate — then the problem lies not with the Senate, but with the nominee,” Schumer said. “The answer will not be to change the rules of the Senate, but to change the nominee to someone who can earn 60 votes.”
“He believes that Judge Gorsuch is unbelievably qualified and that he will get not only confirmed but done so with a large bipartisan vote,” Spicer said.
Trump, a real estate magnate who touted his private sector résumé during his campaign — promising to run government like an efficient business — has been eager to upend the norms of Congress, whose workings are often slower-moving and more deliberative than he prefers.
Announcing his Supreme Court pick Tuesday evening, Trump urged senators to quickly move Gorsuch through the nominating process and onto the high court. “I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country,” he said.
Republicans are hoping to confirm the U.S. Court of Appeals judge by early April before a two-week Easter recess, which would clear the way for him to participate in the final cases of the court’s term ending in June. Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the Senate, would need the assistance of eight Democrats in the chamber to move forward with the nomination if they maintain the 60-vote threshold.
Trump made his comments in response to a reporter’s question at a meeting that Trump convened with representatives of groups that helped the White House make the Supreme Court pick and that will help to get Gorsuch confirmed. Changing the filibuster rule — or exercising the “nuclear option”— does have precedent.
In late 2013, as the nation’s capital grew increasingly partisan, Senate Democrats, under then-Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada, took what at the time was considered a drastic step — eliminating filibusters for most presidential nominations. Though the parliamentary move of a filibuster historically was rarely used, except for top or highly controversial nominees, Republicans had increasingly begun to use the tactic to block many of then-President Barack Obama’s appointments, and Democrats said the change was necessary to fill crucial positions.