Wait... do we actually have the votes to nuke the filibuster?

Earlier today, Ed went over the current state of the pending “nuclear battle” concerning the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. No matter how you look at it, the pickings are slimmer than I’d previously hoped in terms of finding enough Democrats to reach cloture. In Ed’s estimation it looks like we’re going to need Mitch McConnell to pull the trigger on Friday. But that leaves us with one uncomfortable question on the table… is the gun really loaded?

Last week I wrote about some of the back room maneuvering going on, much of it centered on John McCain. While I still think the era of “gang warfare” in the Senate may be pretty much over, I continue to hear rumblings about McCain hoping to strike some sort of a deal. It’s true that he, along with some other veterans of the Gang of 14 and more moderate members, have said they will support the option if they have to, but they wouldn’t have to if they cut some sort of a deal on their own. After all, it only takes three Republicans to scotch the entire thing. The Daily Caller looked at this looming train wreck a week ago and saw some possibilities, including a defection by Susan Collins for starters.

The most likely candidates in this regard are GOP Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsay Graham. All three were members of the “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan group of senators that reached an accord on confirmed Bush-era nominees without invoking the nuclear option in 2005. Other Republicans with something of a moderate streak, like Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake, might also oppose such a dramatic change.

Collins is the only Republican senator to express misgivings about the nuclear option thus far.

“Senator Collins is not a proponent of changing the rules of the Senate,” a Collins representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “She hopes that common sense will prevail and that we will have a normal process for considering Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.”

If you look at the senators on that list it’s not all that crazy to think that you could find three who would kill the nuclear option. But they’d have to get something in return. What do the Democrats have to offer? Well, for one thing there was the previously scoffed at possibility of getting the minority party to find 8 votes to put Gorsuch over the top in exchange for a promise that the nuclear option won’t be invoked in the future and they would retain the right to filibuster the next nominee if they were “too extreme.” In that case, McCain would be looking at causing some serious headaches for Chuck Schumer because he’d effectively need a Gang of Eleven… three Republicans and eight Democrats willing to defy the Minority Leader. Impossible? Definitely unlikely, but after 2016 I’m not sure if I’ll tag anything as totally impossible now.

The worst possibility is that three Republican Senators come forward by Friday and say they can’t bring themselves to pull the trigger but they get nothing in return for it. That basically hands the game, set and match to Chuck Schumer and Trump is left with a split court and no option to fill it unless he wants to go completely insane and let Garland come up for a vote. For what it’s worth, I still think we find the 51 votes and Gorsuch is confirmed this week (unless a few Democrats ride to the rescue quickly and we achieve cloture) but even if a deal is made, this is going to keep coming up every time there’s an opening on the court.