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The procedural bomb has been dropped, paving the way for the US Senate to vote on confirming Neil Gorsuch to a seat on the Supreme Court later this week.

The US Senate voted 52 to 48 on Thursday to invoke the “nuclear option” and end a procedural blockade to final confirmation of the president’s Supreme Court nominee, after Republicans failed to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an earlier Democrat-led filibuster on Mr Gorsuch.

The vote in effect changes the legislative body’s rules to bypass a procedural mechanism that would require 60 of the Senate’s 100 votes to end debate and move to a final vote on the Supreme Court nominee, which will require a simple 51-vote majority.

Senators voted straight down party lines, with the chamber’s 52 Republicans supporting the rule change and its 46 Democrats, along with the two independents who typically join them, opposing it.

That tees up an expected vote on Friday to confirm Mr Gorsuch, who has been tapped by Mr Trump to fill the seat on the nine-member Supreme Court vacated by Antonin Scalia’s death last year.

Republicans threatened to trigger the so-called nuclear option and change Senate rules after Democrats vowed to block a final vote on Mr Gorsuch. Democrats, who are in the minority, had been angered by Republicans’ failure to hold a vote on Merrick Garland, the nominee put forth by Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, as well as concerns about Mr Gorsuch’s conservative judicial philosophy.

Democrats had pulled a similar move in 2013, ending filibusters for most presidential nominees excluding those for the Supreme Court, whose members hold their seats for life.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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