We the people

By Erin Kelly and Richard Wolf, USA Today–

Nearly 14 months since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate finally will take action Thursday to replace him with federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch, ending a divisive process that could forever change the way justices are confirmed and further weaken the Senate’s bipartisan traditions.

Faced with a Democratic filibuster of the 49-year-old Coloradan, like Scalia a fierce conservative and strict interpreter of the Constitution, Senate Republicans will rely on a controversial procedural motion that allows them to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote.

If all goes according to plan, Democrats will win a short-lived victory by denying President Trump’s nominee 60 votes, since only four Democrats have aligned with the chamber’s 52 Republicans to support his confirmation. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will invoke the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to get around the filibuster. After 30 more hours of debate, a final vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation would take place Friday.

McConnell urged Democrats Wednesday to have a last-minute change of heart despite pressure from what he called “special interests on the far left” to block Gorsuch. He emphasized that a successful partisan filibuster would be the first ever mounted against a Supreme Court nominee in the Senate’s 230-year history.

“There is still time for them to make the right choice,” McConnell said.

“The American people will be watching, history will record the decision Democrats make, and there simply is no principled reason to oppose this exceptional Supreme Court nominee.”

© Provided by USA Today

But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats “have principled reasons to vote against this nominee.” Among them, Schumer said, are Gorsuch’s votes for corporate interests over average Americans, his ties to President Trump and his “deeply-held, far-right, special-interest judicial philosophy that is far outside the mainstream.”

Schumer said Trump and Senate Republicans should choose a new nominee rather than blowing up Senate rules and traditions, including a filibuster rule that’s designed to protect the rights of the minority party.

“The option to sit down with us Democrats and talk about a new nominee that can gain sufficient bipartisan support remains on the table,” Schumer said Wednesday. “I hope my friend the Republican leader thinks about where we’re headed, and takes a moment to let reason and prudence prevail over rancor and haste.”

Democrats remain angry that Republicans refused to consider former president Barack Obama’s nomination of appeals court judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, who died on Feb. 13, 2016. Garland was considered a moderate choice by the liberal president, but leaders of the Republican-held Senate said Obama should not be allowed to put someone on the court during his last year in office. Instead, GOP leaders said Obama’s successor should choose the nominee.

Republicans note that Democrats first invoked the “nuclear option.” In late 2013, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., convinced Senate Democrats to change Senate rules to prevent Republicans from blocking Obama’s lower court and Cabinet nominees.

Gorsuch, the man caught in the middle of the bitter partisan fight, is expected to become the nation’s 113th Supreme Court justice soon after the procedural maneuvering ends on Friday.

The cerebral judge has expressed great admiration for Scalia, and shares the late justice’s conservative views on how to interpret the Constitution. He holds degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford universities and has served as a judge on the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit for the past decade.