US Senate votes to 'go nuclear' on Supreme Court pick, forever changing Senate rules

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 06.04.2017 18:54
Updated 06.04.2017 19:44
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen hold a press conference in opposition of Neil Gorsuch. (REUTERS Photo)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen hold a press conference in opposition of Neil Gorsuch. (REUTERS Photo)

The U.S. Senate has voted to "go nuclear" and eliminate the filibuster for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee and future court picks.

The move could change the Senate and court for generations. It came Thursday on a procedural motion.

The change is dubbed "the nuclear option." It removes a 60-vote filibuster requirement for Neil Gorsuch. The Senate is expected to confirm the appellate court judge on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised a point of order to change the rules "under the precedent set on Nov. 21, 2013," when Senate Democrats who were then in the majority made the same move for lower court and executive branch nominations.

McConnell blasted the Democratic blocking tactic, known as a filibuster, as a "radical move" that has never until now been successfully employed to block a Supreme Court nominee.

"This should not be allowed to succeed or to continue, for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the court and for the sake of the country."

But McConnell's rule change -- the so-called "nuclear option" -- is equally explosive, as lawmakers warn it will dramatically reduce the chamber's tradition of bipartisanship and compromise when it comes to Supreme Court appointments.

The tit-for-tat maneuvers are almost certain to change the tone and temper of the Senate, and lead to more fringe high-court justices being approved on either political side.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer pointed the finger at Republicans, but said he took "no solace" in blaming his political rivals because the consequences of the change will be so dramatic.

"The nuclear option means the end of a long history of consensus on Supreme Court nominations," he said moments before the vote, describing the Senate's ability to use the 60-vote threshold as "the guardrail of our democracy."

"The answer is not to undo the guardrails, the rules. It's to steer back to the middle, and get a more mainstream candidate."

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