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Sen. Ben Cardin will support filibuster of Neil Gorsuch

Sen. Ben Cardin
Sen. Ben Cardin (Lauren Victoria Burke / AP)

Sen. Ben Cardin said Monday he will support a filibuster of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch – arguing Republicans are responsible for "making this process untenable."

In a series of posts on Twitter, the Maryland Democrat said he will vote against a cloture motion to end debate on Gorsuch's confirmation. The announcement came soon after media whip counts indicated Democrats had the votes to sustain a filibuster.

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Republican Senate leaders have indicated they are willing to trigger the so-called "nuclear option," undermining a filibuster on Gorsuch by changing the rules so that filibusters no longer apply to Supreme Court nominees. Democrats, when they controlled the chamber, made the same rule change for other nominations.

"I cannot support cloture for [Judge Gorsuch,]" Cardin said on Twitter. "Republicans are responsible for making this process untenable -- and for the consequences." The Republicans, Cardin wrote in another message, are responsible for "breaking" the confirmation process because they declined to consider President Barack Obama's nominee to the court last year, Merrick Garland.

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"I'm voting no on cloture [because] I don't believe [Gorsuch] would be an independent check on [the president,] who has tested the Constitution like no other," Cardin wrote.

The decision represents something of a break for Cardin, who frequently supports an up-or-down vote on nominees even in cases when he ultimately votes against that person for the job. Last week Cardin announced that he opposed Gorsuch, but did not take a position on the filibuster.

Maryland's other Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen, had already indicated his support for a filibuster.

The parliamentary "nuclear option" would allow Republicans to approve Gorsuch by a simple majority, but it would also set a precedent for confirmations that would undermine the minority party's ability to stop anyone in the future. That circumstance became clear for Democrats this year when they were largely unable to block any of Trump's cabinet appointments.

Democratic leaders have said they ultimately regretted the 2013 decision to undermine the filibuster on nominations.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for the tactic, arguing Gorsuch is not only qualified but that Trump had included him on a list of possible candidates for the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat before the election. Many voters – particularly in the GOP – had made the vacancy on the Supreme Court a main reason for supporting Trump.

Gorsuch was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote Monday and his nomination is expected to receive a vote by the full Senate later this week.

"He's a mainstream judge who's earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar," Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Monday. "He applies the law as we in Congress write it -- as the judicial oath says, without respect to persons."

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