Today the full Senate will debate the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fate of the filibuster hangs in the balance.
Democrats will probably vote to extend debate on the vote indefinitely, which effectively blocks the nomination. If this happens, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely pull the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments, and this would result in Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Back in 2013, Democrats pulled the filibuster option for votes on federal judicial appointments, other than Supreme Court nominees. Many say the filibuster is a critical tool in opposing poor decisions by those in the majority, though critics argue it's become overused.
Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be managing the floor debate for the Republicans. He wouldn’t comment directly on the fate of the filibuster, but says Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate on Friday, "sometime before midnight."
Grassley and other Republicans say Democrats' dislike of Gorsuch is based "purely" on politics.
"He's mainstream, he's independent," says Grassley. "To filibuster an exceptional nominee like this shows that the Democrats will filibuster anyone nominated by this president. If this judge is not qualified, nobody is."
Democrats say it was Republicans who played politics when they refused to hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, who in March 2016 was nominated by President Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that will now likely be assumed by Gorsuch.