Senator talks all night as Democrats fight Trump justice nominee Gorsuch
WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator delivered a 15 1⁄2-hour, all-night speech denouncing President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Wednesday, joining an effort to block Senate confirmation of Neil Gorsuch in a heated political showdown with Republicans.
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley began his speech on the Senate floor Tuesday evening and wrapped up mid-morning Wednesday. The Senate was expected Thursday to hold a vote to try to end a Democratic procedural effort called a filibuster aimed at blocking Gorsuch’s confirmation to a lifetime post on the court.
Republicans were expected to fall short of being able to halt the filibuster, but said they have the votes needed to then immediately change the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters against Supreme Court nominees. Republicans said Gorsuch will be confirmed Friday, one way or the other.
Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would reinstate the court’s conservative majority, allow Trump to leave an indelible mark on America’s highest judicial body and fulfill a top campaign promise by the Republican president.
Toward the end of his marathon speech, Merkley looked weary, his suit jacket unbuttoned and his yellow tie billowing out. He stood beside an easel holding graphics that an aide would periodically adjust.
“For the first time in U.S. history, a seat has been stolen from one president and delivered to another in a court-packing scheme. If that were to succeed, it would set a precedent that will haunt the court for decades to come,” Merkley said.
He noted Republicans, who control the Senate, last year refused to consider Democratic former President Obama’s nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
At one point, Merkley read a 1998 speech by one of the past giants of the Senate, Democrat Robert Byrd, decrying partisanship in Congress.
“I believe that the American people are more than tired of partisan warfare. I believe they wish for less of it from Congress, especially in the Senate, where more statesmanship and a longer view are expected,” Merkley said, quoting Byrd.