Sen. Merkley takes over Senate floor to protest Gorsuch nomination

Democrats should introduce a bill in the Senate with explicit requirements that any presidential Supreme Court nominee get a hearing, no matter when in the administration (first year or fourth year) the nomination occurs.

While Democrats have the votes for a filibuster, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ready to lead the GOP in a unilateral change in a Senate floor procedure so significant that it has been dubbed the "nuclear option".

"They seem determined to head into the abyss", the Kentucky Republican said of Democrats as debate began over Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claims the votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster. Democrats have been vocal about their plan to filibuster Gorsuch's confirmation since Trump announced his choice. "And if they do away with the guarantees that are now used by the Democrats, in two years or four years down the road, Republicans may lose the same guarantees for themselves".

McConnell "will resist the change in some cases because it's in his interest not only when he's in the minority again but also to be able to rely on Democrats when the House sends you insane things", Ornstein said. While very correctly blasting Republicans for cheating Garland of the post, Katyal vigorously recommended Gorsuch to the Senate Judiciary Committee as a "first-rate intellect and a fair and decent man". "In this world we are in, what I care most about is a judge who's going to be independent from the executive and call it like he sees it". When asked if he thought McConnell was reluctant to change the Senate rules, McCain said he was when the Democrats did so in 2013 - a move that allowed all cabinet and judicial nominees (except the Supreme Court) to pass with a simple majority.

Gorsuch's confirmation would also serve as vindication for McConnell's strategy of refusing to fill Scalia's seat past year, instead leaving it open for the next president, even though few imagined then that that person would be Trump.

Why is a filibuster of Gorsuch such a big deal?

"The most conservative Democrat is still more liberal than the most liberal Republican". They recognize that if the nominee is so divisive that he can not get 60 votes, then the solution is to change the nominee, not the rules.

Gorsuch is now a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver.

How are Democrats standing between Mr Gorsuch and the Supreme Court?

"All they know is to obstruct, because they haven't gotten over the fact that Hillary Clinton isn't president of the United States", Cornyn added. One exception was President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to become chief justice in 1968.

Democrats have a different reading of history.

"I can't say with confidence, and I'm afraid we're on a slippery slope", the Arizona Republican said.

Some worry that this latest effort to change the rules will further degrade any remaining comity that exists in the Senate. "He's doing it at his volition, just as he prevented Merrick Garland from getting a vote at his own volition", Schumer said. He said he has enough votes from his party for the change to succeed, but some Republicans have bristled at the nuclear option and how the threat of using it has poisoned the atmosphere. After all, it would only incentivize the GOP to pull similar stunts during the next Democratic presidency if another Supreme Court seat opens up.