The Senate’s Failure to Confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch

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If there was one thing President Donald Trump couldn’t live without, it was the approval of his Supreme Court nominee. Even with a GOP-controlled Senate, Trump needed a simple majority to move forward with any final nomination, and there is no greater threat for one’s job security than the prospect of losing that vote in the Senate.

Trump’s problem on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court was that the Senate Judiciary Committee was so partisan that Trump’s nominee couldn’t hope to pass with a simple majority, but a majority is what he needed to win confirmation. The same is true of the confirmation of Jeff Sessions. Without 60 votes, the Senate never would have confirmed Sessions as attorney general and that was the reason GOP leaders gave for killing his nomination.

At the same time, even the most moderate Republican senator was demanding “more than 50.” When it came time to vote on the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the moderate Republican senators voting against it were demanding that the Senate go on record and announce that they would refuse to confirm Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to back down by the narrowest of majority votes that Gorsuch could afford, and even Justice Gorsuch was forced to admit that he had to swallow his pride and say “I can’t do it. I don’t have the votes.” Then the Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer turned on Gorsuch and said “If you can’t get to 50 votes, this is an illegitimate process.” Gorsuch had to cave or risk losing his nomination and confirmation.

When Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 60-vote majority, the problem hadn’t gone away, but by then the problem was so pressing that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer even moved to call a vote on the Gorsuch nomination after the

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