If Neil Gorsuch becomes the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, it will not happen easily.
Gorsuch, who is President Donald Trump's pick to fill the empty SCOTUS seat, got enough support from the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon to earn a full Senate vote, USA Today reports.
But now comes the real hurdle. Democrats have amassed enough opposition to Gorsuch to use a filibuster and blockade any vote. Meanwhile Republicans have promised to get Gorsuch confirmed no matter what – which could mean rewriting Senate rules. Here's what is going on, and where Minnesota's senators – Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken – stand.
Here's how this filibuster stuff works
Only 51 votes, a "simple majority," are actually needed to confirm Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice. The Republicans currently have 52 seats. Democrats have 46, and then there are two Independents that lean Democrat. So if it were a simple yes/no vote, Gorsuch would probably get through without much turbulence.
But that's not how it works – filibuster rules have to be taken into account. A successful filibuster would block the actual final yes/no vote on Gorsuch from taking place.
Anyone can start (or threaten to start) a filibuster. But the other senators can end a filibuster through "cloture." To end the filibuster this way, two-thirds of the sitting senators (so in this case, 60 of them) would need to vote yes on cloture, Filibusted explains.
As it stands Monday, 41 Democratic senators have publicly said they would support the filibuster, The Hill reported. Meaning there are only 59 senators left that could vote yes on cloture and end a filibuster. That's short of the 60 needed, meaning Democrats could indefinitely block Gorsuch's nomination under the current rules.
Where do Minnesota's senators stand?
Both of Minnesota's U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, will vote no on cloture and support the filibuster, their offices confirmed to GoMN Monday.
The way around it: The 'nuclear option'
In the coming days, the full Senate will take up the vote on Gorsuch. That's when we'll find out if the Democrats follow through on this promised filibuster.
If Democrats do successfully filibuster, Republicans could then go "nuclear" – they can essentially vote to reinterpret Senate rules, making it so only 51 votes are needed to override the filibuster, Mother Jones explains. And Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate right now, said Monday it appears his party was set to do that, CNN reports.
If Republicans take the nuclear option, it would be expanding on something Democrats did in 2013 – lowering the number of votes required to end filibusters of all court nominations beneath the Supreme Court, the Washington Post reported.
This nuclear option would get Gorsuch through to the Supreme Court, but there are longterm consequences. For example, it sets a precedent that makes any future Supreme Court justice nominees easier to confirm – a college professor in Virginia wrote for the London School of Economics.
It also continues this political culture of constant escalation, the Washington Post wrote, with one former Senate staffer telling the paper, "You wonder who's going to put the weapons down, or if they'll always stay drawn."
Politifact, while acknowledging the nuclear option would be a "landmark" moment, cautioned against being too dramatic, saying it would only be an incremental step forward from the Democrats' 2013 rule changes, and noting it would leave the 60-vote requirement for everything else in the Senate untouched.