McCain: No last-minute deal to avoid 'nuclear' fight over Gorsuch
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) is pouring cold water on the chances of getting a deal to avoid going "nuclear" over President Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

"I've honestly tried my best. I've had numerous conversations. It's just, we have such a polarized environment here," McCain told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the chances of a deal.

The Senate's fight over Neil Gorsuch is expected to come to a head on Thursday, when he'll need 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle.

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If, as expected, he falls short, Republicans are expected to change the rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominees. Without the filibuster's 60-vote threshold, nominees could pass the upper chamber with a simple majority.

McCain, like other GOP senators, appeared resigned to the overhaul, arguing it is the only way to get Gorsuch confirmed.

But told by a reporter that some think the Senate will be a "better place" after they change the rules, McCain fired back: "Whoever said that is a stupid idiot."

"This is a severe body blow to the Senate as an institution," he added.

McCain told reporters late last week that he was having "conversations" with senators in both parties about trying to find a deal to avoid a nuclear fight.

A small group of Democratic senators, including Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (W.Va.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations American innovation depends on strengthening patents Tax reform and innovation – good news and a cloud MORE (Del.), have publicly expressed an interest in avoiding the nuclear option.

McCain is one of three senators remaining from the 2005 "Gang of 14" that reached a deal to avert eliminating the filibuster.

McCain, however, argued on Tuesday that the "atmosphere" in the Senate had changed.

"We were trying to get eight [senators] and we didn't succeed," he said, noting there were 14 members of the upper chamber who agreed to a deal in 2005.