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Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch testifies on Capitol Hill last month. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file

'The nuclear option': Senate Republicans ditch tradition to ensure Trump's Supreme Court pick gets through

From this point on, any effort in the Senate to hold up a presidential nominee can be overcome with a simple majority.

US REPUBLICANS DITCHED decades of tradition by changing Senate rules to ensure Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, bypassing the first-ever successful opposition blockade of a high-court nominee.

President Donald Trump’s pick, embraced by conservatives but opposed by most Democrats, failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to end debate on his nomination in the 100-seat Senate.

In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to change the rules so that a simple majority suffices to advance Gorsuch – and all subsequent Supreme Court nominees – from the debate to a confirmation vote.

The contentious maneuver – known as the “nuclear option” – was approved 52 to 48 along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate, landing like a political earthquake in a chamber already straining to adhere to its traditions of comity, consensus and bipartisanship.

Senate Supreme Court Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. J. Scott Applewhite J. Scott Applewhite

“Our Democrat colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the Senate,” McConnell said in seeking to justify his potentially far-reaching step.

Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point. We need to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate and get past this unprecedented partisan filibuster.

From this point on, any effort in the Senate to hold up a presidential nominee can be overcome with a simple majority.

That is what happened minutes after the rule change, with the Senate voting again to advance Gorsuch’s nomination – this time successfully, by a vote of 55 to 45.

A final vote on Gorsuch is now set for tomorrow, and his confirmation is all but assured. The White House said Gorsuch will be sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice as early as Monday.

The tit-for-tat maneuvers – filibuster followed by nuclear option – are almost certain to change the tone and temper of the Senate, and lead to more fringe high-court justices being approved on either political side.

© – AFP 2017

Read: Head of probe into Trump’s ties to Russia steps aside due to ethics complaints

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