As we previewed last Friday when Senator Clair McCaskill's "No" decision was seen by many "whip counts" as the decisive "final" vote, moments ago Senate Democrats clinched enough support to block Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, in the process setting up what now appears an inevitable "nuclear" showdown over Senate rules later this week.
The threshold was passed when Sen. Chris Coons announced on Monday that he will oppose President Trump's pick on a procedural vote where he will need the support of eight Democrats to cross a 60-vote threshold. Coons became the 41st Democrat to back the filibuster.
“Throughout this process, I have kept an open mind … I have decided that I will not support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination," Coons said quoted by The Hill. "I am not ready to end debate on this issue. So I will be voting against cloture," Coons said, absent a deal to avoid the nuclear option.
After Coons' decision, unless one of the 41 Democrats change their vote, the filibuster of Gorsuch will be sustained in a vote later this week.
More details from The Hill:
Gorsuch's path to overcoming a filibuster closed on Monday after Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Mark Warner (Va.) each announced they would oppose Gorsuch's nomination. Only four Democratic senators have said they will support President Trump's pick on the initial vote: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.).
Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are each up for reelection in states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. Bennet — who won reelection last year — has been under a microscope because of Gorsuch's ties to Colorado, and didn't specify that he would vote for the nominee during a final vote.
Having been "under a mountain of pressure" from liberal outside groups to block Gorsuch's nomination, Democrats predictably caved. "Progressives argue that voting for his nomination — even on a procedural vote — helps enable President Trump and is out of line with what the base of the party wants. With Democrats now able to block Gorsuch's nomination, Republicans are expected to change the rules to circumvent the filibuster."
The most likely next step is the Republican use of the nuclear option (previewed earlier), and although GOP leadership hasn't specifically said they will use the "nuclear option," GOP senators appear resigned to lowering the threshold for Supreme Court nominations. Republicans have been quick to note that Democrats, then led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), used the nuclear option in 2013 to lower the confirmation threshold for lower court judges and executive nominees.
"If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting on Gorsuch's nomination. "I hate that. I really, really do."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican and a member of the committee, added that Gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of the week. “If they're going to oppose Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they will never vote and never support a nominee of this President," he said.
With the Judiciary Committee expected to clear Gorsuch's nomination on Monday, a full Senate vote is expected by the end of the week.
Graham compared Democratic complaints to "arsonist complaining about the fire."
For a longer take of how the GOP's use of the nuclear option could transform the Senate, please read the following preview.