Senators talk possibility of Neil Gorsuch filibuster

WASHINGTON -- With a Senate vote expected later this week on the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court -- and Democrats threatening to filibuster his nomination -- two senators outlined on “Face the Nation” what they expect from the vote.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, says a filibuster would not be “out of line with Senate tradition,” while Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, says he’s confident the Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed.

King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said he has not yet decided whether or not he’ll vote for Gorsuch -- and that he doesn’t see a filibuster as “out of line with Senate tradition,” particularly given how Republicans blocked Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination last year.

“Last year, Merrick Garland was subjected to what I would call the grandaddy of all filibusters: not even allowed to have a hearing, much less a vote, went on for something like 11 months,” King said. 

“The idea of a 60-vote requirement for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court doesn’t strike me as out of line with Senate tradition,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has said Democrats plan to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, meaning he would need 60 votes in order to be confirmed. Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, and thus far two Democrats have announced they will vote for Gorsuch: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota -- both facing tough reelection battles in 2018. Were Democrats to filibuster, Republicans have talked about changing the Senate rules so Gorsuch could still be confirmed.

Responding to Heitkamp’s suggestion that “two wrongs don’t make a right” when it comes to blocking Supreme Court nominees, King said something as important as a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court should have “some level” of bipartisan approval.

“What I’m suggesting is I think the 60-vote margin requires some level of bipartisanship,” he said. “And whether it’s on legislation or on a major appointment like this, that isn’t bad for the country that you have to have people and ideas that have some level of buy-in from both parties.”

Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, said he’s confident Gorsuch will be confirmed, saying Democrats’ potential filibuster would be “unprecedented in American history.” (He did not make mention of Republicans’ successful efforts to block Garland’s nomination.)

“Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed this week one way or another,” Cornyn said. “I hope the Democrats will provide the 60 votes.”

He praised Gorsuch as an ideal Supreme Court nominee, and said the only reason Democrats object to him is because he was nominated by President Donald Trump.

“Neil Gorsuch I think is the kind of nominee that our Democratic friends really haven’t been able to find any real fault with -- except that he was nominated by this president,” Cornyn said.

“If they filibuster Neil Gorsuch, they’re going to filibuster everyone that this president might propose,” Cornyn added.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination on Monday, setting the stage for a vote in the full Senate later this week.    

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.