Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch, by Friday of this week by any means possible. As a result, this could be the week that the Senate decides to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to be confirmed with a simple 51-vote majority rather than needing to clear the 60-vote hurdle that currently stands.
"It is depressing. I'm very depressed," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told NPR. "We're all arguing against it, but we don't know any other option."
McConnell's threat of invoking the so-called "nuclear option" hangs over the heads of the Democrats, who protest that the Supreme Court seat was unfairly blocked when the pick was rightfully owed to President Barack Obama. Former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid previously used the "nuclear option" in 2013 to kill the filibuster for executive branch nominations. NPR notes that "neither the 2013 nuclear trigger nor what could happen this week affect the ability to block legislation that falls short of 60 votes."
Several Democrats have said they will vote for Gorsuch regardless, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all of whom are up for re-election in states that Trump won in 2018. Manchin cited his concern about losing the filibuster as one of his reasons for voting for Gorsuch: "What's the place going to look like 10 years from now, you know? What goes around comes around. People that have been here a long time know we're going down the wrong path here," he said.
Eight Democrats would need to side with the Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold and avoid McConnell's "nuclear option" threat.