Dems elevate attacks as Supreme Court showdown approaches

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats elevated their attacks against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Wednesday, portraying him as an ally of the powerful and an enemy of the weak as an explosive showdown loomed on the Senate floor. Republicans defended Judge Neil Gorsuch, accusing Democrats of trying to block him out of frustration over Trump’s election victory.

“Democrats would filibuster Ruth Bader Ginsburg if President Donald Trump nominated her,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., naming one of the more liberal sitting justices. “There is simply no principled reason to oppose this exceptional, exceptional Supreme Court nominee.”

Democrats begged to differ, returning again and again to McConnell’s decision last year to deny consideration to then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who was ignored for nearly a year by Senate Republicans after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Instead McConnell kept Scalia’s seat open, a calculation that is now paying off hugely for Republicans and Trump, who will be able to claim the biggest victory of his presidency to date if Gorsuch is confirmed on Friday as expected.

“For the first time in history, we are considering a nominee for a stolen Supreme Court seat, and that alone should be reason for everyone who cares about this institution to turn down this nominee,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said on the Senate floor as he wrapped up a 15-and-a-half-hour overnight talk-a-thon to underscore his party’s opposition to Gorsuch.

First, though, looms showdown votes Thursday, when 44 Democrats and independents intend to try to block Gorsuch by denying Republicans the 60 votes needed to proceed to final passage. McConnell and Republicans intend to respond by unilaterally changing Senate rules to remove the 60-vote filibuster requirement for Gorsuch and all future Supreme Court nominees, reducing it to a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.