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Trump Just Picked His Supreme Court Nominee. Now What?

Now that President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans and Democrats have a number of choices to make…

Neil Gorsuch

President Trump named Judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court. The next step in the confirmation process includes hearings and votes, but don’t expect it to be that simple.

1. FILIBUSTER?

Emboldened by Trump’s travel ban executive order, Democrats are digging in against any and all proposals coming out of the White House, including Cabinet and now the Supreme Court nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had said Democrats would oppose “any nominee outside the mainstream.” Blocking Trump’s nominee through a filibuster would require Republicans to find 8 Democrats willing to cross party lines to support Gorsuch to reach the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster. As it stands now, 10 Democratic senators represent states that Trump won in 2016.

Republicans never attempted to filibuster President Obama nominees, but they did, citing precedent, block a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland when he tried to nominate him during an election year.

2. REACHING 60 VOTES

Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate, which means they must woo 8 Democrats to their side for confirmation. However, Gorsuch was previously confirmed in 2006 by the Senate with a unanimous voice vote, making it difficult for Democrats to oppose him now.

In two states, Missouri and Indiana, Trump eclipsed 55 percent of the vote. That puts significant pressure on Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2018.

3. GOING NUCLEAR

If Democrats decide to filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can get rid of the precedent of a 60-vote threshold and confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote. Dubbed “the nuclear option,” this is the strategy employed by former Sen. Harry Reid in 2013 to confirm lower-court judges. It’s a strategy Trump himself endorsed last week.

4. THE TWO-SPEECH RULE

Some are calling for an alternative to nuking the filibuster, however. The Heritage Foundation is pushing for a “two-speech rule.” Here’s how it would work:

The idea is to use Senate rules allowing senators only two speeches in a legislative day, which is different from a calendar day. By extending a legislative day over several days or weeks, Republicans could wait until all Democrats had given their two speeches and none were left to speak, allowing the Senate to move to a simple majority vote. 

That strategy would require a lot of time and effort, and Democrats would likely look for procedural ways to thwart it.