Filibuster looms as Senate panel clears Supreme Court nominee

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Neil Gorsuch is one vote closer to becoming the next US Supreme Court justice, even as the fight over his confirmation kicks into higher gear.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 straight down party lines on Monday to advance Mr Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate floor for a vote, which is expected to happen on Friday.

Mr Gorsuch was nominated earlier this year by President Donald Trump to fill the seat on the nine-member Supreme Court vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia. Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had nominated a different judge, Merrick Garland, but Republicans refused to hold a vote on that nominee.

On Monday, Democrats appeared to secure the 41 votes needed to filibuster Mr Gorsuch’s nomination — a procedural blockade that would require a super-majority of 60 out of 100 Senate votes to proceed to a final confirmation vote, which only requires a simple 51-vote majority.

Even if they can hold ranks, however, the Democrats’ victory may be short-lived. Mitch McConnell, who leads the Senate’s majority-holding Republicans, has said he will consider deploying the so-called nuclear option and change Senate rules to do away with filibusters for Supreme Court nominees if Democrats carry through on their blockade threat. Democrats deployed a similar tactic in 2013 while Mr Obama was still in office and abolished filibusters for many presidential nominees — except Supreme Court candidates.

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