McConnell tees up Thursday Supreme Court showdown
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.) is paving the way for the fight over Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination to come to a head on Thursday. 

The Republican leader filed cloture on President Trump's pick Tuesday evening, setting up an initial vote for Thursday.

McConnell urged Democrats earlier Tuesday to back down from their filibuster threat, saying they could still "do the right thing."

“History will be watching," he said from the Senate floor. "And the future of the Senate will hang on their choice.”

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Gorsuch is expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Thursday's procedural hurdle. 

Only four Democrats have said they will support Gorsuch on the initial step, but he needs eight total to get 60 votes. 

Top Democrats signaled on Tuesday that Republicans, not their own caucus, need to back down and put forward another Supreme Court nominee who can garner more support from Democrats.

"No one is making our Republican colleagues change the rules," Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Schumer: Trump should take Kim Jong Un off 'trip coin' Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE said. "No one is forcing Sen. McConnell to change the rules. He's doing it at his own volition." 

Republicans appear resigned to needing to go "nuclear" to allow Gorsuch and future nominees to get approved to the Supreme Court by a simple majority.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate panel advances 6B defense policy bill McCain: Trump pardoning Jack Johnson 'closes a shameful chapter in our nation’s history' Trump pardons late boxing champion Jack Johnson MORE (R-Ariz.) warned that it's a "slippery slope" to nixing the filibuster altogether.

"Benjamin Franklin somewhere is turning over," he told reporters.

McCain said last week that he was talking with senators in both parties to try to avoid using the "nuclear option" to change the rules. But he poured cold water on chances of a last-minute deal on Tuesday, saying "we were trying to get eight [senators] and we didn't succeed."

McConnell's move on Tuesday comes after the Senate voted largely along party lines to to proceed to Gorsuch's nomination.

Only four Democratic lawmakers — Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback Trump doesn't invite key Dems to signing ceremony on their bill MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews House votes to ease regulation of banks, sending bill to Trump Senators demand answers on Trump’s ZTE deal MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback Trump doesn't invite key Dems to signing ceremony on their bill MORE (Ind.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid MORE (Colo.) — voted with Republicans to formally start debate.