Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) announced Thursday afternoon that he’ll vote no on confirming Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, citing displeasure at the GOP decision to invoke the “nuclear option.”
“Today’s changes to the Senate’s rules have done lasting damage to the Supreme Court and our process for approving nominees,” Bennet said in a news release. “With these changes, justices may now be confirmed with the narrowest partisan majority. Allowing the judiciary to become a pure extension of our partisan politics is precisely the outcome our Founders feared. Moving forward, lifetime appointments to our highest court could become just another political exercise.
Bennet has been in a difficult position since Gorsuch was announced as the nominee. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge hails from Denver – and Bennet praised the 49-year-old on the Senate floor as recently as Wednesday.
“I am proud Judge Gorsuch is from Colorado. He is a qualified judge who deserves an up-or-down vote. That is the tradition of the Senate, and it is why I opposed a filibuster before the rule change,” Bennet’s statement said.
“Judge Gorsuch is a very conservative judge and not one that I would have chosen. For the reasons I have said, I had concerns about his approach to the law. Those concerns grow even more significant as we confront the reality that President Trump may have several more opportunities to transform the Court with a partisan majority.
“For all these reasons, I will vote no on the nomination.”
Prior to Thursday, Bennet was the only senator who refused to say whether he’ll vote to confirm Gorsuch.
Bennet’s statement came shortly after Republicans voted to invoke the “nuclear option” to strip Democrats of their power to block Gorsuch from being confirmed.
The dramatic action was approved by a party-line vote, clearing the way for Republicans to end the Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination.
The vote to approve the nuclear option changed the Senate filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees so that only a simple majority of senators are needed to end debate and move to a final confirmation vote. Before that change, it took 60 votes — three-fifths of the 100-member chamber — to end debate.
The action comes nearly 14 months after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016.
Earlier on Thursday, Democrats won a short-lived victory by blocking Gorsuch. An initial motion to end debate failed 55-45, falling five votes short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster before the rule change. Four Democrats joined 51 Republican senators to advance Gorsuch's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., changed his vote to a "no" at the last minute to preserve his ability to invoke the "nuclear option," changing Senate rules to get around the filibuster.