Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated Tuesday that he believes he has the votes to invoke the so-called nuclear option and eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court justices, while also committing not to seek to dismantle the legislative filibuster.
The Senate is heading toward a showdown later this week over the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, whom Democrats have vowed to filibuster. Up until McConnell’s direct confirmation Tuesday that he had the 50 votes required—with Vice President Pence as a tiebreaker—to change the rules around Supreme Court confirmations, GOP leaders avoided answering the question directly and preferred to say that they had the votes to confirm Gorsuch when asked about the GOP whip count for the nuclear option.
“We think the nuclear option is filibustering the Supreme Court nominee, it’s never been done before,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said earlier Tuesday when asked why Republicans were hesitant to talk about changing the rules.
At a press briefing after a Senate GOP lunch, McConnell responded “yes” when he was asked if he was confident that he had the votes to change the precedent around Supreme Court filibusters.
McConnell also spoke to concerns, expressed by those in his own caucus, that nuking the Supreme Court filibuster was a slippery slope to ending the legislative filibuster.
“There’s no sentiment to change the legislative filibuster,” McConnell told reporters.
He was later asked if those comments meant that he was committing, as majority leader, to never remove the legislative filibuster.
“Correct,” McConnell said.