McConnell: Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed to Supreme Court "one way or the other" this week

04/02/2017 11:22 AM

As Democrats in the U.S. Senate look to deny Neil Gorsuch the 60 votes needed for his confirmation to the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Gorsuch will take a spot on the high court “one way or the other” this week.

McConnell, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, made clear he’s prepared to evoke the so-called “nuclear option” to confirm Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, changing the Senate’s rules and eliminating the 60-vote threshold needed to affirm Supreme Court nominees.

Republicans currently hold a 52-member majority in the Senate, with some red-state Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, saying they plan to vote in favor of Gorsuch.

“What I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” McConnell said. “How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.”

The battle over Supreme Court picks erupted last year following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

McConnell turned former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland — and previous statements from Democrats, like former Vice President Joe Biden, against confirming Supreme Court picks during presidential elections — into a campaign talking point.

When asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd why he didn’t put Garland up for a vote and allow his nomination to fail, McConnell said that was “litigated” in last year’s election cycle and that Senate Democrats would have blocked a Republican president’s pick in the same situation.

“The American people decided they wanted Donald Trump to make the nomination, not Hillary Clinton, and what’s before us now Chuck is not what happened last year, but the qualifications of Neil Gorsuch,” he said.

“There’s no rational basis, no principled reason for voting against Neil Gorsuch, and that’s what’s before the Senate this week,” McConnell added.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said minutes later that rather than eliminating the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court picks, President Donald Trump should meet with Senate Republicans and Democrats to find another nominee.

“When a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “You should change the nominee.”

McConnell also discussed congressional investigations into possible Russian interference in last year’s presidential contest and potential links between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for the National Security Administration, through his attorney recently offered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in exchange for immunity, an offer the panel rejected.

House Democrats have called for Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to recuse himself from the investigation, questioning his impartiality in that probe.

McConnell said the Senate’s investigation won’t be marred by questions on what’s happening in the lower chamber of Congress. He noted that Sens. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the panel, vowed to pursue the facts in their Russian inquiry.

“It’s pretty clear the contrast here,” he said. “… I think the American people can depend on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation to be done on a bipartisan basis and to go wherever the facts lead us.”


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