Why does the Senate even have to do so?
The Constitution requires so. Article II of the Constitution says that the President has the power to appoint judges of the Supreme Court “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” The reason for this requirement is to have the legislative branch “check” on the executive branch, and make sure that we have an independent Supreme Court. Brilliant, right?
Step-by-step process of confirmation:
- The President nominates a candidate and sends the nomination to the Senate.
- Once the Senate receives the nomination, it sends it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee then studies the nomination and learns more about the candidate’s qualifications.
- The Judiciary Committee decides whether to refer the nomination to the whole Senate for a vote.
- If the Committee sends the nomination to the full Senate, senators will be able to debate whether they want to confirm or reject the nomination. Senators can also “filibuster” (see below) if they want to delay the voting process.
- When (or if) the Senate stops debating about the nominee, it will be time to vote. If there are 60 or more votes in favor of ending the debates and commencing the voting process, then 51 votes will be needed for confirmation. If there is a tie for the confirmation vote, the Vice-President will vote.
What is going on with Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation process?
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. That means that the full Senate can now vote to confirm him or not. Senators then started debating about Judge Gorsuch and Democrats are trying to spend as much time as possible debating about the candidate.
By doing this, Democrats are “filibustering.” Democrats needed 41 votes to keep the debates going and they already secured those votes. This means that Republicans cannot successfully vote to end the debates. And voting cannot take place until the debating is over, which means that Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation might remain in the air.
What does filibustering mean?
Filibustering happens when legislators extend the debate time in order to delay voting for a particular piece of legislation. Senate rules allow senators to speak all the time they want, until three-fifths (usually 60 senators) vote to end the debate. Because Democrats secured 41 votes, Republicans cannot reach the required 60 votes to stop the filibustering (“cloture”).
Republicans really want to confirm Judge Gorsuch and they can probably do that, since there are 54 Republicans in the Senate and only 51 votes are needed for his confirmation. However, voting cannot take place until the filibustering is over and, as of right now, the Senate rules state that 60 votes are needed in order to end a filibuster. Republicans, however, might use the “nuclear option.”
What is the “nuclear option”?
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a “cloture” motion. Cloture is a motion to end the filibuster. Tomorrow, Senators will vote but, as explained, this motion will probably fail because Democrats secured 41 votes against it (thus, Republicans can’t get to 60 votes, since there are only 100 Senators).
After the cloture motion fails, McConnell will have to decide whether he wants to exercise the “nuclear option.” In other words, whether he wants to try to change the filibuster rules so that only 51 votes are required, instead of 60, to stop the filibuster. If McConnell uses the “nuclear option,” 51 Republicans will vote in favor of ending the debate and then they will be able to vote and confirm Judge Gorsuch. Only 51 votes are required to confirm a nominee.
Hence, it is possible that by Friday the Senate will end up confirming Judge Gorsuch.
Do you think the Senate will end up voting? Is this what Republicans in the Senate deserve after they refused to even consider President Obama’s nominee, Judge Garland?
What do you think?