Senator Jeff Merkley, one of the key Democratic senators pushing for a “nuclear” showdown over Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, took to the chamber floor Tuesday night in a mock one-man filibuster.
He began speaking just before 7 p.m. and was still holding the floor just ahead of 10 p.m., vowing to keep talking as long as he could hold out.
He wasn’t delaying anything — Republicans have locked in a vote for Thursday morning to try to end Democrats’ blockade of Judge Gorsuch. But Mr. Merkley, of Oregon, was trying to draw attention to Democrats’ complaints.
He said the vacancy President Trump is trying to fill on the Supreme Court was stolen from Democrats, referencing Republicans’ refusing to hold a hearing or a vote last year for President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick Garland.
Republicans are preparing to use a shortcut to change the interpretation of Senate rules and overcome Democrats’ filibuster — a move known as the nuclear option. Democrats used the tactic in 2013 to change the rules for all nominees but the Supreme Court, and now the GOP says it’s just following the same playbook.
“We can’t keep going through this extreme partisanship and save the Senate at the same time,” Mr. Merkley said.
Ironically, Mr. Merkley was one of the biggest boosters of Democrats’ 2013 use of the nuclear option to change the rules.
Democrats have been cheered on in their blockade by liberal pressure groups who, like the tea party on the GOP side, have demanded Democratic senators obstruct Mr. Trump at every turn — including the Supreme Court.
They jumped to fundraise off Mr. Merkley’s speech Tuesday.
“Democrats are standing strong against Trump’s nominee and progressive Senators are leading the way,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director for Democracy for America, in a fundraising email.
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