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Whether to allow filibusters on Supreme Court nominations

04/06/2017
Senate Roll Call No. 109
115th Congress, 1st Session

Not Sustained: 48-52 (see complete tally)
On January 31, 2017, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Republicans currently control the U.S. Senate by a margin of 52-48.  When the Gorsuch nomination came to the Senate floor on April 4, 2017, Senate Democrats launched an unprecedented partisan filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on confirming Gorsuch.  Under the Senate's operating rules ("precedent"), 60 votes were required to end such a filibuster, and an initial cloture attempt failed, with only four Democrats supporting cloture.  Pro-life Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then triggered the so-called "nuclear option" -- that is, he forced a Senate vote to whether to create a new precedent, under which only a simple majority would be required to end debate on a Supreme Court nominee (the same operating rule already established by Democrats in 2013, when they were in the majority, for all other presidential nominations, judicial or otherwise).  Because of the procedural situation, senators wishing to support McConnell's motion were required to vote "no" (i.e., no to continuing the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominations). National Right to Life strongly supported the McConnell motion, which succeeded on a straight party-line vote of 52-48. The Senate then promptly ended the Democratic filibuster by majority vote, and the next day (April 7, 2017) confirmed Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The outcome here means that future nominees to the Supreme Court can be confirmed if they have the support of a simple majority of senators; they will not be subject to any 60-vote hurdle.  The change does not affect filibusters against bills or amendments.  For further details on the April 6, 2017 "nuclear option" roll call, please see this statement issued by National Right to Life shortly after the vote.  In this scorecard, the April 6 roll call on the "nuclear option," eliminating the 60-vote hurdle for Supreme Court nominees, appears as column no. 2 (Senate roll call no. 109, April 6, 2017).  On April 7, 2017, the Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Gorsuch; that roll call appears here as column no. 3.


Vote Map: Senate Roll Call No. 109
Votes For : 48
Votes Against : 52

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