Today on the Hill: Democrats Secure Votes for Gorsuch Filibuster as McConnell Prepares to Go Nuclear

April 4, 2017

The Senate took one more step towards going nuclear yesterday after Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) became the 41st  Democrat to commit to filibustering the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. With the minority’s votes secured, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will likely file cloture today to begin the formal floor consideration process and begin the parliamentary process for using the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules and kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans have given every indication that they intend to follow through with changing Senate rules, and at this point, it seems that neither party is likely to budge from their position. The collapse of the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees marks the end of a decades-long battle over the role of the minority in confirming judicial nominations – then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) killed the filibuster for low-level federal judges in response to Republican intransigence in 2013 – and it may lead to more ideological judicial selections by both parties in the decades to come. Floor statements on the Gorsuch nomination will likely reflect that history and the uncertain future more than any commentary on the nominee himself.

The House today will consider a bipartisan measure (H.R. 1343) advanced out of the House Financial Services Committee that is intended to boost employee stock offerings by doubling the threshold at which companies are subject to disclosure requirements by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The bill passed on a 48-11 vote out of committee and the rule governing consideration of the bill provides for debate on one amendment. House lawmakers also will consider one measure under suspension of the rules, namely concurring to a Senate amendment to a bill (H.R. 353) providing for new weather forecasting research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Before moving to the Gorsuch nomination, the Senate will finish consideration of the nomination of Elaine Duke to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. Duke is a career bureaucrat, most recently serving as the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) undersecretary for management, and her nomination for a higher post is not considered controversial.