WASHINGTON – Led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), U.S. Senate Republicans today united to produce a historic victory for their party, the President, and the country — and a huge defeat for a coalition of left-wing groups, led by the abortion lobby, that had relentlessly pressured Democratic senators to filibuster the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On a party-line 52-48 roll call, employing the so-called “nuclear option,” Senate Republicans broke the Democratic filibuster, setting the stage for Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed tomorrow — and ensuring that future nominees to the Supreme Court who command majority support in the Senate will be confirmed.
“For decades, liberal senators and interest groups have attacked Republican judicial nominees with procedural and political weapons that Republicans have been slow to match,” said National Right to Life Senior Policy Advisor Douglas D. Johnson. “We commend Senate Republicans for today’s decisive action to restore parity to the judicial confirmation process.”
National Right to Life President Carol Tobias added, “All too often, our efforts to protect unborn children and other vulnerable humans have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own policy preferences. Judge Gorsuch appears to believe that judges are constrained to enforce the text and original intent of constitutional provisions, and on all other matters should defer to democratically elected lawmakers – this heartens us, and frightens those who have relied on activist judges to impose their radical pro-abortion policies.”
A left-wing coalition (“led by NARAL Pro-Choice America,” according to the liberal media outlet Mother Jones) demanded that Senate Democrats filibuster Judge Gorsuch, and all but a few complied. After an initial tally fell short of the 60 votes required under previous precedent to end such a filibuster (“invoke cloture”), Majority Leader McConnell had the support of every other Republican senator to create a new precedent, under which a simple majority suffices to invoke cloture on Supreme Court nominations. Cloture was then invoked by a second roll call of 55-45, setting the stage for a final roll call to confirm Judge Gorsuch tomorrow (Friday, April 7).
The 60-vote hurdle for all presidential nominations other than Supreme Court had already been eliminated by Senate Democrats in 2013, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) employed the same “nuclear” procedure. Prominent Democrats, including Reid himself and vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine, explicitly said in 2016 that Democrats would not hesitate to extend the simple-majority principle to nominations to the Supreme Court, if Republicans ever tried to filibuster the Supreme Court nominee of a Democratic president.
“Today, Republican senators really were not deciding whether there should be a 60-vote hurdle for nominees to the Supreme Court — rather, they were deciding whether there should be a 60-vote hurdle only for the Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents,” Johnson explained.
In a letter sent on March 31, National Right to Life advised U.S. senators that the key roll calls on these matters would be included in the organization’s scorecard for the 115th Congress, including the “roll call to create a symmetrical cloture precedent applicable to all nominations” (i.e., the “nuclear option”). The letter said that a vote against the nuclear option was “a vote to perpetrate the type of jurisprudence” found in Roe v. Wade and certain successor cases, and “the overriding importance of these roll calls – particularly those deemed procedural – will be clearly conveyed to our members, supporters, and affiliates nationwide.
Regarding Judge Gorsuch, the NRLC letter said: “Based on the evidence available, it appears that Judge Gorsuch is the type of nominee that the abortion advocates fear most – one who will take seriously his oath to defend the Constitution, even when this produces results that may outrage certain elites. They fear that Judge Gorsuch will fail to find in the Constitution any provision that denies a self-governing people the right to fashion laws that recognize the humanity of unborn members of the human family. We agree with that assessment, because there is no such provision to find.” (See also “Stage now set for a final roll call on Friday to confirm Judge Gorsuch“)