Sen. Orrin Hatch says he’s willing to violate his traditionalist principles and vote for the “nuclear option” if that’s what it takes to break a Democratic filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Hatch believes the controversial procedural move would hurt the Senate but benefit the country by getting Gorsuch installed on the high court.
The nuclear option would change Senate rules to lower the threshold for breaking a filibuster of Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to 51, meaning Republicans could advance Gorsuch without the support of any Democrats. Republicans would take the rare and contentious step over the objections of Democrats, who themselves changed the rules on Republicans in 2013 when they lowered the filibuster threshold for all other presidential appointments besides the Supreme Court.
Many Senate institutionalists worry that changing the filibuster rules would diminish the chamber’s role of finding bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems and acting as the “cooling saucer” to the sometimes emotionally-charged actions of the House, where rules allow the majority to dominate the minority.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Thursday that Democrats would filibuster Gorsuch, meaning Republicans, who hold a 52-48 advantage, would have to pick up the support of eight Democrats to overcome the blocking procedure.
“I can’t believe that the Democrats would do that,” said Hatch, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “I know there are a few radicals that might do that but I would think the vast majority would say this is a very good man.”
Only two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — have signaled they might vote against a filibuster. Democratic leadership aides have said they expect most Democrats to support a filibuster, and many have already expressed their plans to do so. Meanwhile, some Democrats have said they oppose Gorsuch but haven’t spoken directly to whether they will filibuster him.