McConnell tees up Thursday Supreme Court showdown
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight House sets up Senate shutdown showdown Biden says he doesn't believe a government shutdown will happen 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 SchumerChuck SchumerProgressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law Biden should seek some ideological diversity 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 McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid 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 HeitkampVirginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters Washington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (Ind.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHickenlooper: Law preventing cannabis business banking 'a recipe for disaster' Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Sununu exit underscores uncertain GOP path to gain Senate majority MORE (Colo.) — voted with Republicans to formally start debate.