Update, 1:03: At this point, it looks like the 30-hour limit is safe. Republicans have moved directly into the debate. Looks like we’re done for this thread, but stay tuned for tomorrow’s vote. Thanks for reading!
Update, 12:54: John Cornyn gets up to spike the football for a while, but stay tuned to see whether he or McConnell move to limit debate to eight hours. It doesn’t matter on Gorsuch, who will get confirmed by tomorrow evening either way, but it matters on hundreds of pending nominations from Donald Trump to other executive branch positions.
Update, 12:50: The final cloture vote was 55-45. I missed the third Democratic crossover, but it was likely Michael Bennet, from whose state Gorsuch hails.
Update, 12:45: And we’re at 51 for cloture and the vote. The Reid option has been fully implemented.
Update, 12:41: Both Manchin and Donnelly voted for cloture on the new motion. Looks like Schumer had more trouble with his own caucus than McConnell did with his.
Update, 12:39: After this vote on cloture, watch to see whether McConnell decides to reduce the time for debate to eight hours from 30.
Update, 12:34: Hatch announces a 48-52 vote on upholding the chair’s precedent. Now a new cloture vote has been called, and will pass on another party-line vote.
Update, 12:32: The nuclear option has been detonated, pending the close of the vote:
UPDATE: Enough Republicans support Senate rules change ending filibusters on Supreme Court nominees. https://t.co/BaZJ2TUpvC
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 6, 2017
Update, 12:26: Looking like a party-line win for McConnell so far.
Update, 12:18: And now Orrin Hatch takes over as president (he’s the President Pro Tem) and calls the question for the Reid Option. Republicans will vote “no” to reject the ruling from the parliamentarian, which will change the precedent for Supreme Court nominations to a simple majority.
Update, 12:17: The motion to adjourn failed on party lines, too, 52-48. That’s the last arrow in the parliamentary quiver for Schumer, other than maybe a few more parliamentary inquiries.
Update, 12:12: If Schumer hoped to push a few Republicans into opposing McConnell’s play, he’s failing. So far, the GOP caucus has remained united through every vote in this process, but … we’re still waiting for the big one.
Update, 12:02: McConnell raises the point of order. Schumer raises a few more parliamentary inquiries for his later talking points … again. And now Schumer wants to adjourn, which will eat up a few more minutes. Take the opportunity to read Allahpundit’s post on Devin Nuñes for the drama in the other chamber of Congress. (If I recall parliamentary procedure correctly, a motion to adjourn is the only one that takes precedence over McConnell’s appeal of the ruling from the chair.)
Update, noon: The motion to postpone has failed on a straight party-line vote of 52-48. Next up: detonation.
Update: Reconsideration passed 55-45, followed by a few “parliamentary inquiries” from Chuck Schumer for his later talking points. Schumer makes a motion to postpone the nomination until after the Easter recess, but he’ll need at least three Republicans to agree to that.
Update: While we’re waiting, let’s note a very strange claim from Politico about the 2013 move by Harry Reid, emphasis mine:
The Senate was able to pull back from the brink several times before; the so-called “Gang of 14” in 2005 staved off the nuclear option over judicial picks under the George W. Bush administration and a series of smaller gentlemen’s agreements were made during President Barack Obama’s tenure.
That all ended when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered the nuclear option in November 2013 to end the 60-vote margin needed to advance all presidential nominees except those to the Supreme Court. Still, the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees was considered so sacred that Senate Democrats refused to touch it at the time.
That’s utter nonsense. Reid didn’t touch it at the time because there were no Supreme Court vacancies in late 2013. Reid made it clear that he wanted “democracy” to prevail on judicial confirmations … when Democrats controlled the Senate and the White House. “Let ’em do it!”
— America Rising (@ARSquared) April 4, 2017
Update: As the Senate moves through the vote on reconsideration, it’s good to note that there were no surprises at all on the cloture vote:
Outcome of the initial cloture vote was 55-45; 4 Democrats (Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Bennett) voted for cloture as they said they would
— NPR (@NPR) April 6, 2017
No Democrats had second thoughts before charging the cannons, so to speak. I wonder how many of them read “The Charge of the Light Brigade”?
Update: Cloture failed on a 55-45 vote, with 60 necessary to proceed to the floor vote for confirmation. To initiate the Reid Option, Mitch McConnell changed his vote to “no” in order to bring up the privileged motion to reconsider, the next step in the process.
Original post follows ….
The long-awaited reckoning in the judicial-confirmation wars has finally come. Democrats just successfully held together for a filibuster to stop the final floor vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a historical change in Senate rules. If Mitch McConnell delivers, Donald Trump will have clear sailing not just for Gorsuch but also for any other Supreme Court openings that come up in the next three-plus years.
It won’t happen without a healthy dose of hypocrisy and projection from Chuck Schumer, who has spent the last 15 years making the filibuster a novel tool for obstruction on judicial nominations. Schumer declared that it has been Republicans who have become unreasonable, rejecting Democratic offers to avoid this final confrontation:
Sen. Schumer: "Responsibility for changing the rules will fall on the Republicans and Leader McConnell's shoulders." https://t.co/0CnpwSpSYT
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 6, 2017
Er … wut? The only firm offer from Schumer involved withdrawing Neil Gorsuch from consideration and let the replacement be chosen by … Chuck Schumer. That was five days ago, and Schumer’s attempt to wrest control of judicial nominations from the president and the majority was the take-it-or-leave-it position from leadership. Chris Coons floated a suggestion the next day that McConnell could get Gorsuch if he promised not to fight a filibuster on the next appointment. There was no follow-up to suggest that was an official position from Senate Democrats, and pointedly did not include a promise not to filibuster the next nominee in any case. Regardless of Schumer’s words today, his track record and that of Harry Reid over the last 15 years — and Reid’s identical rules change in late 2013 — are what brought the Senate to this pass today.
Just how important was this vote to conservative stakeholders? An hour or so before the vote, the American Conservative Union announced that it would keep score in rating Senators in this session of Congress. It announced this decision in an e-mailed statement that also noted it as an unusual step:
The American Conservative Union is calling on the U.S. Senate to take whatever steps are necessary, including changing the Senate rules, so the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court will receive an up or down vote.
ACU only announces rated votes in advance in extraordinary cases of overwhelming importance and this is such a case, so, if the cloture motion fails, the vote to change Senate rules to allow an up or down vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch will be included in ACUF’s 2017 Ratings of Congress.
McConnell had already gotten public commitments from every member of his caucus to stick to the Reid Option, so this could have been seen as redundant. Clearly, though, the ACU thought a final reminder that conservatives would not forgive an eleventh-hour betrayal was in order. McConnell likely welcomed a last spine-stiffener before moving into the breach.
A former McConnell staffer reveals that the Senate Majority Leader has plotted this outcome since at least late 2013, when Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer last stabbed Republicans in the back. In fact, McConnell has been laying the groundwork for this over fifteen years, Josh Holmes write in Politico today, while also trying to head off what turned out to be an inevitable collision:
In a world of instant gratification that too often rewards boastful rhetoric over definitive accomplishments, Mitch McConnell stands out for his patience. The Senate majority leader expends political capital with ruthless efficiency, using it only when it can accomplish precisely what he intends. McConnell doesn’t start many fights; he finishes them.
As the Senate moves toward confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, that is exactly what is happening: McConnell is ending a fight that a young senator named Charles Schumer started nearly 15 years ago by rallying the first-ever partisan filibuster of a nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court: Miguel Estrada. Previously, the Senate’s “advise and consent” role was vigorously deployed with fierce partisan tensions but ultimately settled with simple up-or-down majority votes. …
In the most ironic plot twist, the man who started it all returns to the stage in the final scene. Now the Senate minority leader, Schumer has once again set a new precedent by rallying a freshly defeated Democratic minority to attempt the first-ever partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.
Nearly 15 years after Schumer started this fight, he will have a front row seat when McConnell finishes it. A uniquely perfect way for this story to end. Regrettable, perhaps; inevitable, to be sure.
As usual, updates to this post will appear at the top of the post in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first. Stay tuned.