GOP-controlled Senate bares divisions after triggering nuclear option on Neil Gorsuch

Source: AP
Source: AP

The Senate made history Thursday by invoking the "nuclear option" in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch — and even some Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber are vexed about it.

Republican leaders seemed to acknowledge the gravity of the 52-48 vote to bypass a Democratic filibuster not only on Gorsuch, but on future nominees as well.

Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman stuck the other party with the bill for the vote, tweeting, "Breaking longstanding precedent is unfortunate, but Senate Democrats are to blame."

Arizona Sen. John McCain voted with his fellow Republicans, but expressed disappointment with the tactic, calling it "a regrettable setback" and called it "a very dark day in the history of the U.S. Senate."

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander portrayed the chamber's actions as simple justice, saying Gorsuch's case should be decided "as Supreme Court nominations have always been for 230 years — by a majority vote."

Politico reported that Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins circulated a letter urging her colleagues to maintain the chamber's 60-vote benchmark for passing legislation.

In a statement, Collins said the Senate's ethos has been built on "trust, compromise, and restraint," and that she hoped all would reflect on a "profoundly sad day for this greatest of American institutions."

Sen. Jeff Merkley, a California Democrat, picked up on the darkness theme and took it further, tweeting, "The dark deed is done. McConnell has just put a knife into the heart of our We the People republic."

Presidential also-ran Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said he was disappointed with the "partisan manner" in which the Gorsuch matter was handled. In a statement, Sanders said he also feared the jurist would be part of "an extreme right-wing majority" that would imperil workers' and women's rights.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire also blasted both the vote and Gorsuch's "alarming record of putting the interests of large corporations over those of their employees."

And Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia had hard words for both major parties for "doing what was politically easy instead of doing the hard work of consensus building," saying that's precisely what's wrong with Washington, "and if [the nuclear option] happens, both Democrats and Republicans will bear the shame."

The White House, apparently, had few qualms about moving right along to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

With the way cleared by the historic Senate vote, press secretary Sean Spicer said Gorsuch could take his place on the high court in just days.

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Celeste Katz

Celeste Katz is senior political correspondent at Mic, covering national politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at celeste@mic.com.

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