US Senator Chris Coons said today that he will join the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, saying he was “not ready to end debate” on the nomination. In opposing a vote on Gorsuch, Coons joins his Delaware colleague Tom Carper and at least 40 other Senate Democrats, a sufficient number to prevent Gorsuch supporters from the 60 votes necessary to gain “cloture” and proceed with an up or down vote on the nomination, per Senate rules.
“I will be voting against cloture unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid ‘the nuclear option’ and ensure that the process to fill the next vacancy on the Court is not a narrowly partisan process, but rather an opportunity for both parties to weigh in and ensure we place a judge on the Court who can secure support from members of both parties,” said Coons in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today.
Earlier Coons said Gorsuch “is a charming man, he has a good resume, he has strong qualifications in terms of education, his service on the court…”
Coons, an honorary co-chair of the centrist “Third Way” think tank, had been the subject of increasing pressure from fellow Democrats and liberal activists to join the filibuster in response to Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
Carper cited that refusal in his Senate floor statement opposing cloture, calling for a “pause button” to be pushed on the nomination.
“I believe the unprecedented obstruction our Republican colleagues mounted last year against Judge Garland was a shameful chapter for the United States Senate,” said the senior Delaware senator. “I believe Judge Garland still deserves a hearing, and he still deserves a vote.”
Carper continued, “while I do not believe that two wrongs make a right, I believe this may be our only opportunity to right a wrong and erase the enormous black mark the Senate’s failure to consider Judge Garland leaves on this chapter of American history … Confirming anyone for this vacancy other than Judge Garland would be a stamp of approval for playing politics with Supreme Court nominees.”
“From where I sit, upholding my oath to protect the Constitution means finding agreement on moving Judge Garland’s nomination forward at the same time as Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a final vote on the nomination this week, even if that includes changing Senate rules to do it. Four Senate Democrats have already announced their support for Gorsuch, giving him more than sufficient votes needed to be confirmed.
“At this time, I believe it is appropriate to hit the pause button until an agreement can be reached that provides justice for Judge Garland, while restoring credibility to the Senate … If Judge Gorsuch fails to achieve 60 votes on the first try or the next try, it does not mean his nomination will not move forward at some point in the future. It means we’ve hit the pause button. It may very well be that, while we’ve paused, another vacancy on the Court could emerge,” said Carper. “Who knows when another vacancy might occur?”