Republicans eye 'nuclear option' in Senate to confirm judge

WASHINGTON • Republicans failed yesterday to end a Democratic bid to block a US Senate confirmation vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nomination, but were poised to quickly resort to a rule change dubbed the "nuclear option" to allow approval of Judge Neil Gorsuch today.

With ideological control of the nation's highest court at stake in the fierce political showdown, the Senate held a vote to end debate on Judge Gorsuch's nomination and move towards a vote today to confirm him to the lifetime post.

But Republicans fell short of the 60-vote super majority needed to overcome the Democratic procedural tactic called a filibuster and proceed to a vote in which senators could confirm him by a simple majority.

Republicans were set to immediately move to hold a vote on changing longstanding Senate rules in order to prohibit filibusters against Supreme Court nominees.

The rule change, which requires a simple majority, has been dubbed the "nuclear option" because it has been considered an extreme break with Senate traditions, and Mr Trump has encouraged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear". Republicans control the Senate 52-48.

Republicans said Judge Gorsuch would be confirmed today one way or the other. "This will be the first and last partisan filibuster of the Supreme Court," Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor yesterday ahead of the vote."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Republicans eye 'nuclear option' in Senate to confirm judge'. Print Edition | Subscribe