One senior Democratic senator might ruin Chuck Schumer’s plan to filibuster Gorsuch

One senior Democratic senator might ruin Chuck Schumer’s plan to filibuster Gorsuch
Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told a Vermont media outlet that, although he will not vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the longtime senator is not inclined to filibuster the nomination.

This could pose a problem for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has called for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination.

In an interview with VTDigger, Leahy, who has served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee and has been an active and highly partisan member of the committee for decades, said after hearing Gorsuch’s testimony at his nomination hearing, that “philosophically, I’ve seen nothing that will bring me to vote for Gorsuch.”

“I don’t have a problem with a conservative judge. I’ve voted for a lot of conservative judges,” Leahy said. “But when you have somebody who won’t answer basic questions on everything from freedom of religion to presidential litmus tests, that’s very troublesome.”

However, Leahy, whose voice on judicial nominations carries significant weight within his caucus, indicated that he does not support Schumer’s call for a filibuster.

“I am not inclined to filibuster,” he said, “even though I’m not inclined to vote for [Gorsuch].”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not ruled out using the nuclear option to confirm Gorsuch, which would allow Republicans to circumvent the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate and allow the body to confirm Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority. Democrats used the nuclear option to confirm district and circuit court judges during the Obama administration.

Leahy said that eliminating the 60-vote cloture rule “hurts everybody.”

“I was very reluctant to see us use the nuclear option, though, I don’t think we would have seen any of President Obama’s judges go through without it,” he said.

According to Politico, 13 Democratic senators — including Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee — have yet to say whether they will support a filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination.

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