The Senate gavels into session at 10 a.m. on Thursday, after a night of speeches by Democrats opposed to the confirmation of U.S. federal appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. An hour later, at 11 a.m., senators will vote on whether to end debate — the cloture vote — and Democrats have enough votes to stymie the attempt to move forward to a vote on Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will immediately move to change Senate rules to end the filibuster for at least Supreme Court nominees, a proposal that needs only simple majority support. Assuming at least 50 Republicans support this "nuclear option," the Senate will vote to start the clock for a vote to confirm Gorsuch, expected Friday evening.
McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that deploying the nuclear option was a good thing for the Senate. "The practical effect of all this will be to take us back to where we were" in terms of confirming Supreme Court nominees, he said. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) disagreed Wednesday, saying only an "idiot" would celebrate the nuclear option. "Whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I've been through," he said. "And they are stupid and they've deceived their voters because they are so stupid." McCain, like other reluctant Republicans, says he plans to vote for the nuclear option anyway.
Democrats argue that Gorsuch, 49, is too conservative and sympathetic to corporations to merit a lifetime appointment, but underlying their opposition is anger that Senate Republicans did not even hold a hearing when former President Barack Obama nominated federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland for the same seat a year ago. You can watch part of some of their late-night speeches below. Peter Weber