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Trump urges Senate to ‘go nuclear’ for Gorsuch

President Donald Trump urged the Senate majority leader Wednesday to “go nuclear” if needed to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch over Democratic opposition.

“I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,” Trump said at the White House Wednesday, referring to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web. So I would say, it’s up to Mitch, but I would say go for it.”

Current Senate rules can require 60 votes to advance a Supreme Court nomination, meaning the 52 Republicans would need support from at least eight Democrats. Republicans have refused to say whether they would change the rule to let a justice be confirmed with a simple majority — an action known as the “nuclear option.”

Trump noted that Gorsuch, whom he nominated Tuesday to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, was confirmed unanimously by the Senate to a federal appeals court in 2006.

“I think there’s a certain dishonesty if they go against their vote from not very long ago,” Trump said.

Focus on presidential power predicted

The nomination comes amid an outcry over Trump’s order restricting travel by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The controversy is likely to put new focus on the constitutional curbs on presidential power — and the Supreme Court’s role in policing those limits — as the Senate takes up the nomination.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said his party will oppose any nominee who is outside the legal mainstream. On Wednesday, Schumer said on the Senate floor that Democrats will ensure an “exhaustive, robust and comprehensive debate” on Gorsuch, including on whether he can stand up to Trump if he exceeds his executive authority.

“I have very serious doubts that Judge Neil Gorsuch is up to the job,” Schumer said.

McConnell declined to say what Republicans would do if Democrats thwart a vote on Gorsuch. “I’m not going to answer the hypothetical question about how this may end, other than to say, Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed,” he said recently on a radio talk show.

“All we’re asking for is equal treatment,” said McConnell, pointing to former President Barack Obama’s first two nominees and not Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whom McConnell blocked last year.

Gorsuch, 49, is a champion of religious liberty known for his crisp and, at times, pointed writing style. He has faulted liberals for an “overweening addiction to the courtroom.” Educated in Ivy League schools and the University of Oxford, he has served on the federal appeals court in Denver since being appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would in all likelihood largely track Scalia’s voting pattern. He would become the youngest justice since 43-year-old Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991.

Democrats will be hard-pressed to stop the nomination given the 52-48 advantage Republicans hold in the Senate. Under current rules Democrats need only 41 votes to filibuster the nomination and block a vote, but Republicans could eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments with a simple majority vote.

Gorsuch emerged relatively late in Trump’s decision-making process. He wasn’t on Trump’s original list of 11 prospective justices released in May but was added as a part of a second list distributed in September. He impressed Trump during an interview that thrust him into front-runner status, a person familiar with the decision said before the announcement.

Trump chose Gorsuch over fellow federal appellate judges Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor and Raymond Kethledge.

 

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