Democrats are calling for a delay on the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch because of the FBI’s investigation into potential ties between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed before the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau is conducting an investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election. The investigation will explore possible “links” between Trump’s team and the Russian government.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat and potential 2020 presidential contender, posted a series of tweets Tuesday evening, arguing the Russian investigation should be Congress’ No. 1 priority. She also asserted that Republicans are trying to use Gorsuch to “move on” from the potentially damaging FBI probe.
And Warren isn’t alone.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday afternoon that it is “unseemly” for Congress to move forward with Gorsuch’s confirmation while a “big, gray cloud of an FBI investigation hangs over the presidency.”
Schumer called it “the height of irony” that Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, but are “now rushing” to confirm Gorsuch to fill the high court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The GOP has argued they were invoking the so-called “Biden rule,” named after former Vice President Joe Biden. In 1992, Biden, then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “Action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”
“You can bet if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI, the Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances,” Schumer said.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, echoed the senators’ words, tweeting that it is “entirely unacceptable” for Trump to place a justice on the Supreme Court “under the cloud of an FBI investigation.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has noted the lack of support Gorsuch is receiving from Democrats, wondering if any GOP nominee could get the 60 votes required to stop a Democrat-led filibuster of his confirmation.
“If Judge Gorsuch can’t achieve 60 votes in the Senate, could any judge appointed by a Republican president be approved with 60 or more votes in the Senate?” he asked, according to The Hill.
So far, Republicans have refused to rule out the so-called “nuclear option,” which is executed by overruling the parliamentarian with a bare majority — rather than the 67-vote majority traditionally required for a rules change — that would lower the vote threshold to end debate on Gorsuch’s confirmation from 60 votes to a simple majority of 51 votes, eliminating the threat of a filibuster.
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed the rules in 2013 to allow a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber in order to filibuster-proof then-President Barack Obama’s executive branch appointees and all judicial nominations except the Supreme Court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination by April 3 and to send the nomination to the full Senate for debate and an eventual vote.
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