Senate Democrats will employ ‘nuclear option’ to confirm Supreme Court justice

UPDATE — 11/4, 9:32 p.m. EST: Conservative activist group Heritage Action put rhetorical pressure on Senate Republicans Thursday to block any Supreme Court nominee chosen by Hillary Clinton, should she become president.

Specifically, the organization’s vice president of communications, Dan Holler, said that it would be “unacceptable” for the GOP to allow Clinton to pack the court with liberal justices, although such a obstructionist effort will take “an immense amount of willpower”.

“It’s perfectly within the realm of Republican senators’ rights and prerogatives and with the Constitution and what they campaigned on to say ‘this person will not uphold the Constitution and therefore they don’t deserve to be appointed to the bench,’” Holler said.


In an interview with the Huffington Post Thursday, Oct. 27, in Columbus, Ohio, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine addressed recent comments by Ted Cruz and John McCain that Senate Republicans may not confirm a ninth Supreme Court justice if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Specifically, Sen. Cruz (R-Texas) said there is “long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” and McCain, up for reelection on Nov. 8 in Arizona, remarked that the GOP is “united” in their opposition to a Democratic appointed justice.

When asked about these remarks, Kaine, Virginia’s junior senator, cited the Judiciary Act of 1869, which stipulates that the Supreme Court have nine justices, and called an eight judge bench “unprecedented”.

Furthermore, Kaine said Senate Democrats are willing to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and change parliamentary rules to allow a Supreme Court nominee confirmation with only 51 votes, instead of the current 60 needed to end a filibuster.

“If these guys think they’re going to stonewall the filling of that vacancy . . . then a Democratic Senate majority will say ‘we’re not going to let you thwart the law,'” he said. “And so we will change the Senate rules to uphold the law.”

Kaine’s suggestion echoes comments made by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday, Oct. 24.  “When I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority,” Reid said. “It’s clear to me that if Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ’em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it.”

In 2013, Senate Democrats changed the upper-chamber’s rules to allow lower court judicial nominee confirmation with a simple majority of votes. In order to amend Senate parliamentary procedure, 51 votes are required, which Democrats would have with 50 caucusing senators plus the vice president casting a tie breaking vote if Hillary Clinton is elected.

Two other Republican senators up for reelection, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Richard Burr of North Carolina, have also said they will not confirm a Clinton-appointed Supreme Court justice.

“If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” Burr told GOP workers at a private event Saturday in Mooresville, N.C.

Three current bench-holders on the High Court are now at least 78 years-old, two of which are considered liberal judges. The confirmation of an Obama or Clinton nominee would mark the first time a majority of the Supreme Court bench comprised Democratic appointed justices since 1969.

Listen to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talk about the litmus test they would employ in choosing a Supreme Court nominee at the beginning of the third debate, Oct. 19 in Las Vegas.


[Huffington Post] [Politico] [Talking Points Memo] [CNN] [Bloomberg] [ABC News] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Tim Dillon/USA Today]