Monday 22 January 2018

Democrats block Trump's top judge

The White House has published this official portrait of Melania Trump, which comes after several weeks in which she had hardly been seen in public
The White House has published this official portrait of Melania Trump, which comes after several weeks in which she had hardly been seen in public

Laurence Hurley

Democrats amassed enough support yesterday to block a US Senate confirmation vote on US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Republicans vowed immediately to simply change the Senate rules to ensure the conservative judge gets the lifetime job.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to send Mr Gorsuch's nomination to the full Senate, setting up a political showdown between Mr Trump's fellow Republicans and the opposition Democrats that appears likely to trigger a change in long-standing Senate rules to allow his confirmation.

Before the vote, Senator Christopher Coons, a member of the panel, became the 41st Democrat to announce support for a procedural hurdle called a filibuster requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to allow a confirmation vote.

The Senate's Republican leaders insist Mr Gorsuch will be confirmed on the Senate floor on Friday regardless of what the Democrats do. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

In the face of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be expected to force a confirmation vote by having the Senate change its rules and allow for a simple majority vote for confirmation of Supreme Court justices, a move sometimes called the "nuclear option" that Mr Trump has urged.

Judiciary Committee Republicans blasted Democrats for pursuing what they called the first "partisan filibuster" of a Supreme Court nominee - there was a successful bipartisan filibuster five decades ago against a Democratic president's nominee - and said it would come to naught because of the threatened rule change.

But it was Senate Republicans who last year refused to even consider former president Barack Obama's nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Mr Trump has selected Mr Gorsuch to fill.

"Democrats, including me, are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year. But the traditions and principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week," Mr Coons said.

He left room for a compromise, in which Democrats would allow the vote to go ahead in return for Republicans agreeing to a 60-vote threshold for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

"I hope and pray that we can yet find a way together to find a solution," Mr Coons said.

Senate confirmation of Mr Gorsuch (49) would restore the nine-seat high court's conservative majority, fulfilling one of Mr Trump's top campaign promises.

Irish Independent

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