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Democrats Block Trump's Court Pick, Trigger Vote to Change Senate Rules

McConnell blasted the Democratic blocking tactic, known as a filibuster, as a "radical move" that has never until now been successfully employed to block a Supreme Court nominee.

AFP

Updated:April 6, 2017, 10:11 PM IST
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Democrats Block Trump's Court Pick, Trigger Vote to Change Senate Rules
File image of US President Donald Trump. (Image: Reuters)

Washington: A political earthquake rocked the US Senate Thursday as Democrats blocked President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, triggering a Republican move to change longstanding rules in order to ram the nomination through.

A procedural vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch failed when 44 Democrats opposed the nomination in the 100 member chamber, leaving Republicans shy of the 60 needed to end the debate and move to a confirmation vote.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber's majority leader, responded by signalling he would work immediately to change the rules so that the approval of Gorsuch -- and all subsequent presidential nominees to the high court -- is no longer subject to the 60-vote threshold, but only a simple majority vote.

McConnell blasted the Democratic blocking tactic, known as a filibuster, as a "radical move" that has never until now been successfully employed to block a Supreme Court nominee.

"This should not be allowed to succeed or to continue, for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the court and for the sake of the country."

But McConnell's rule change -- the so-called "nuclear option" -- is equally explosive, as lawmakers warn it will dramatically reduce the chamber's tradition of bipartisanship and compromise when it comes to Supreme Court appointments.

The tit-for-tat maneuvers are almost certain to change the tone and temper of the Senate, and lead to more fringe high-court justices being approved on either political side.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer pointed the finger at Republicans, but said he took "no solace" in blaming his political rivals because the consequences of the change will be so dramatic.

"The nuclear option means the end of a long history of consensus on Supreme Court nominations," he said moments before the vote, describing the Senate's ability to use the 60-vote threshold as "the guardrail of our democracy."

"The answer is not to undo the guardrails, the rules. It's to steer back to the middle, and get a more mainstream candidate."

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| Edited by: Nakshab Khan
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