Judge Gorsuch's confirmation vote, expected to be held in the Senate later this week, could have far-reaching legislative consequences well beyond the make up of the Supreme Court. With Democrats vowing to "fight tooth and nail," as Chuck Schumer would say, to filibuster Gorsuch, Republicans are likely to pursue the "nuclear option" to secure his nomination, a move that would eliminate the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.
But several senators are warning that bypassing the Senate's filibuster rules for Gorsuch's vote, a move that Democrats utilized multiple times as well, is a slippery slope that would inevitably lead to calls to eliminate the filibuster for legislation as well so that bills could pass with a simple majority. Such a change would remove the last vestige of the Senate's long tradition of protecting minority views, turning it into a smaller version of the House and fundamentally transforming the way laws are made. Per The Hill:
"The thing I worry most about is that we become we like the House of Representatives. What's the next step? Legislation?" said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
"I'm convinced it's a slippery slope."
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned last week on the Senate floor that growing pressure from the right and the left will make it difficult to withstand calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster.
"If we continue on the path we're on right now, the very next time there's a legislative proposal that one side of the aisle feels is so important they cannot let their base down, the pressure builds, then we're going to vote the nuclear option on the legislative piece," he said.
"That's what will happen. Somebody will do it."
Of course, the likelihood of Gorsuch being confirmed absent the "nuclear option" are looking fairly slim with Senators McCaskill (D-MO) and Tester (D-Mont.) both confirming they'll oppose his nomination.
Republicans need 60 votes to overcome the filibuster backed by Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who on Sunday said it is "highly, highly unlikely" that Republicans will get there.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on Sunday said they would oppose Gorsuch and back a filibuster. The decisions by the two senators, who both face reelection next year in states won by Trump, seem to back Schumer's words up.
Republicans need to find another six votes to invoke cloture, and they have few options left.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has sent mixed signals over whether he'd back the filibuster.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who represents Gorsuch's home state, is an unknown, as are Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine).