Republicans Threaten to “Go Nuclear” on Filibuster by Thursday

The filibuster could be gone — or at least significantly amended — by Friday, after Democrats gained the votes to hold up the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has threatened to hold a vote on amending the parliamentary rule — something that would require the support of all but one of his Republican colleagues.

McConnell said on Sunday that Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court “this week.” Fox News reported Monday that “senior Republican sources” are claiming “McConnell has the votes” to change Senate procedures.

“It’s likely this will all go down on Thursday with a prospective confirmation vote on Friday evening,” the conservative news outlet claimed.

In 2013, Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” on non-Supreme Court judicial nominees. Former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) advanced the rule changes after Republicans left dozens of vacancies on lower courts, over the course of President Obama’s first term and into his second one.

The filibuster still applies to legislation and Supreme Court nominees, meaning Justices and bills currently need 61 votes for Senate approval, instead of a simple 51-vote majority.

By Monday, Democrats had conjured the 41 votes they need to force McConnell’s hand. Only four Senate Democrats said they would vote to end debate over the Gorsuch nomination: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo).

Immediately after Trump’s election, it looked unlikely that conservatives would back any move to alter Senate rules. Seven Republican senators went on the record saying they were reluctant to “go nuclear.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was one of those seven lawmakers. But on Monday he was singing a different tune, warning Democrats that obstruction would be met with procedural alterations.

“Because if we have to, we’re going to change the rules,” Graham said. “I hate that. I really, really do.”

Update: This post was first published before Democrats secured the 41 votes they need to filibuster Gorsuch. It has since been amended to reflect the current whip count.