The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday voted 11-9 along party lines to move Judge Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination to the full chamber, but Democrats look to have the votes necessary to prompt a fight over the filibuster.
"Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified," Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said at Monday's hearing. "This nominee we're voting on today is a judge's judge. He's a picture of the kind of justice we should have on the Supreme Court."
Democrats threatened to filibuster the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge's Supreme Court nomination, and GOP leadership has responded by signaling it would lower the vote threshold required to confirm Gorsuch. On Monday afternoon, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons' expressed his willingness to vote against cloture, giving Democrats the votes needed to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.
Republicans wasted little time in reiterating their desire to deploy the "nuclear option" and lower the vote threshold necessary to confirm Gorsuch. Democrats' efforts to block Gorsuch's confirmation this week will fail, said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday, part of the Republican majority supporting Gorsuch. "We will not have a successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee," Graham said, because Republicans will change the rules. Graham said he would "hate" to see the rules of the Senate changed, but he would support putting Gorsuch on the court by such a measure, if needed.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the former Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said at Monday's vote that Gorsuch was "excruciatingly evasive" and "stonewalled" in giving any substantive answers. Leahy had not previously said publicly how he would vote on Gorsuch, but his opposition comes as no surprise. Leahy's vote against Gorsuch may lead other fence-sitting Democrats to unite and do the same later this week.
The full Senate is expected to consider Gorsuch's nomination Friday after several days of debate.