Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said Monday that he was worried that Democratic opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch would lead Republicans to trigger a “nuclear option,” eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
“I doubt he’s going to get 60 votes,” Coons told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that Gorsuch will need 60 votes to be confirmed, implying that Democrats will filibuster his nomination.
“And the question then, Joe, becomes, ‘What do we do?’” Coons continued. “There’s a lot of finger-pointing. There’s a lot of Democrats justifiably still very mad about the treatment of Merrick Garland.”
Senate Republicans have indicated that they are willing to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” – shorthand for changing the Senate’s rules with a simple majority vote – to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
In 2013, in response to Republican obstruction, the then-Democratic Senate majority invoked the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster for all executive branch positions and judicial appointments, except for Supreme Court nominees.
Coons said Senate Republicans would “almost certainly” eliminate the Supreme Court nominee filibuster.
“And I think this is tragic,” he continued. “And in talking to friends on both sides of the aisle, we’ve got a lot of senators concerned about where we’re headed. There’s Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule, we’re mad at them about shutting down the government, they’re mad at us for Gorsuch, and we are not headed in a good direction. I’m very concerned about where we’re headed.”
“I think it’s something that we have to consider. Harry Reid is the guy who broke the dam,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in February, referring to the possibility that Republicans would change the Senate’s rules.
In October, before President Donald Trump’s surprise electoral victory, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) predicted to TPM that a Democratic Senate majority would change the Supreme Court filibuster if they faced a Republican filibuster.
“[I]f the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ’em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it,” he said. “I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again.”
Schumer, however, said in January that he wished Senate Democrats hadn’t eliminated the filibuster for appointments and judicial nominees.
“I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship,” he said.
Watch Coons’ remarks below via MSNBC. Discussion of Gorsuch begins at 2:13: