Senate Republicans successfully invoked the so-called “nuclear option” Thursday,
The Republican majority of the US Senate unilaterally changed the rules of the institution unilaterally to impose the confirmation of conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, ending decades of compromise tradition.
In a procedural vote broadcast on the major American news channels, the 52 Republican senators approved the lowering of 60 to 51 votes of the bar required to unblock the debates on the appointment of any judge to the Supreme Court.
The Democratic opposition, which had earlier obstructed the old rules, denounced a passage in force heavy with consequences.
“The 60-vote rule is the safeguard of our democracy … and a safeguard against judicial extremism,” said Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democrats.
Neil Gorsuch, 49, appointed by President Donald Trump in January, is expected to be confirmed as the ninth judge of the Court on Friday in a confirmation vote. The seat had been vacant since February 2016, following the sudden death of conservative Antonin Scalia.
Senate “nuclear option” invoked in Gorsuch confirmation vote
Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, saw in Democratic obstruction against Neil Gorsuch “escalating the left in their ongoing judicial warfare,” declaring that it would not be tolerated.
Rarely in American history the appointment of a supreme judge had given rise to such a partisan quarrel. Last year, however, the Republicans refused to consider the appointment of Barack Obama’s nominee to the Court, Merrick Garland, arguing “the elimination of the presidential election.
This growing polarization of political life has led to this change on Thursday of a fundamental rule of the upper house of Congress.
In the Senate, the debates are not fixed-term, with every senator having the opportunity to speak without any time limit. To shorten these debates, a rule stipulates that a “closing vote” can be organized, with a required qualified majority of three fifths of the 100 senators, ie 60 votes.
The current Republican majority has only 52 senators, compared to 48 Democrats. The Democratic group is almost entirely opposed to Judge Gorsuch. Determined to confirm it by all means at the Court, the majority group has therefore taken the extraordinary decision to amend the regulation by a simple vote.
The Democrats had opened the way to this change in November 2013, when they were in the majority and the president was called Barack Obama. To break the deadlock on the nominations, they lowered the bar to 51 votes for federal judges and other appointments, with the exception of the Supreme Court.
The 2017 Republicans took the next step in removing this exception. But the three-fifth bar remains in force for all laws.