Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice appeared all but certain after his smooth and appealing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He came across as almost too good, one of his backers said. He was the beneficiary of a well-financed effort by outside groups. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump were strongly committed to his confirmation.
Yet in the days before floor debate began, his nomination was in jeopardy. Three Republican senators wouldn’t commit to vote for the nuclear option to prevent a Democratic filibuster from blocking Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both pro-choice on abortion, raised the fear that ending the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee could lead to an anti-abortion majority on the court.
Bob Corker of Tennessee had a different concern. He waved the banner of tradition, a lobbyist said. He defended the filibuster as a worthy tradition of the Senate that promotes compromise and bipartisanship. Killing the filibuster in Supreme Court nominations could lead to eliminating it entirely, even in debates over legislation. McConnell insists this won’t happen.