Democrats block Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

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Judge Neil Gorsuch

Senate Democrats have blocked President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

The Senate voted 55-45 to successfully filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Republicans are planning to unilaterally change Senate rules to remove a 60-vote filibuster requirement for Mr Gorsuch and all future Supreme Court nominees, reducing it to a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats opposing Mr Gorsuch said they believe he would favour corporations over workers and would be on the far right of the court.

They are angry over the Republican blockade last year of former president Barack Obama’s nominee for the same seat, Merrick Garland.

If confirmed, Mr Gorsuch will fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, 14 months ago.

All 44 Democrats and independents voted against advancing Mr Gorsuch and, for procedural reasons, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell cast his vote with them to enable the vote to be reconsidered.

Many senators voted from their seats, a rare and theatrical occurrence, then stayed in the chamber for the drama yet to unfold.

Mr McConnell prepared to make procedural manoeuvres to lower the vote threshold to advance Mr Gorsuch’s nomination.

Under those new rules, which the 52-member Republican majority can ratify despite bitter objections from the Democrats, another vote will be held which would allow Mr Gorsuch to move forward to final passage.

He is expected to be confirmed on Friday and take his seat on the court later this month, in time to hear the final cases of the term.

The manoeuvring played out with much hand-wringing from all sides about the future of the Senate, as well as unusually bitter accusations and counter-accusations as each side blamed the other for bringing the Senate to this point.

Mr McConnell accused Democrats of forcing his hand by trying to filibuster a highly qualified nominee in Mr Gorsuch, 49, a 10-year veteran of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver with a consistently conservative record.

Mr McConnell vowed that the rules change would block the Gorsuch filibuster, and all future ones, a change many politicians lamented could lead to an even more polarised Senate, court and country.

“This will be the first, and last, partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee,” Mr McConnell insisted. “This is the latest escalation in the left’s neverending judicial war, the most audacious yet, and it cannot and will not stand.”

Supreme Court filibusters have been nearly unheard of in the Senate, but the confrontation is playing out amid an explosive political atmosphere with liberal Democrats furious over the Trump presidency and Republicans desperate to get a win after months of chaos from Mr Trump.

“We believe that what Republicans did to Merrick Garland was worse than a filibuster,” declared Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. “We didn’t hear two words in the long speech of Senator McConnell: Merrick Garland.”

The coming rules change is known as the “nuclear option” because of its far-reaching implications. “The nuclear option means the end of a long history of consensus on Supreme Court nominations, it weakens the standing of the Senate as a whole,” Mr Schumer said.

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