McConnell, Schumer square off ahead of Gorsuch votes

Posted at 1:39 PM, Apr 02, 2017

The Senate's top Republican and Democrat on Sunday presaged the floor battle to come this week over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, offering opposing views on the likelihood of his confirmation that set the stage for a "nuclear" showdown when the chamber votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that President Donald Trump's nominee would soon be seated on the high court.

"Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week," McConnell said. "How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee."


But in a separate interview on the same program, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted he would be able to unite enough Democrats to deny Gorsuch the 60 votes the Republican leadership will need to overcome a filibuster.

"It's highly, highly unlikely that he'll get 60," Schumer said.

If Schumer is able to halt the vote, however, McConnell could move to change the rules of the Senate by invoking what is referred to as the "nuclear option," which would allow the leadership to overcome a filibuster of Supreme Court nominations with a simple majority, or at least 51 votes. Republicans hold a slim, 52-48 majority in the chamber.

CNN's whip count as of Sunday morning showed Democrats nearing a critical mass to maintain a filibuster, with just two Democrats saying they will support Gorsuch.

Schumer said Trump should withdraw the judge's nomination and instead submit a compromise candidate after receiving input from Democrats. He also invoked the fate of Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy, whom McConnell refused to consider.

"Each side didn't get their nominee," Schumer said, referring to the past and current impasse. "Let's sit down and come together."

McConnell announced last week that, regardless of Schumer's filibuster threat, the Senate would vote on Gorsuch this Friday before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess.

In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, echoed McConnell's comments.

"Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed this week one way or another," Cornyn said. "I hope the Democrats will provide the 60 votes and we don't have to worry about the change of rules."