Senate speeds up Gorsuch confirmation vote
© Greg Nash

The Senate is moving up a final vote on Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination after Republicans changed the rules to help him clear an initial hurdle.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request MORE (R-Ky.) announced that the Senate will vote on Gorsuch's nomination roughly two hours after they convene on Friday morning.

Democrats could have forced Senate Republicans to stay in Washington until 6:50 p.m. on Friday if they wanted to use the upper chamber's rulebook to drag out debate time as retribution for Republicans using the "nuclear option."

Instead, McConnell's announcement means a final vote on President Trump's nominee will take place shortly before noon on Friday.

The decision to speed up a vote requires the agreement of every senator, including each of the 45 Democrats opposed to Gorsuch's nomination. Any one lawmaker could have objected to McConnell's request to schedule the earlier vote.

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Gorsuch's confirmation is all but guaranteed after Republicans invoked the so-called nuclear option earlier Thursday, nixing a 60-vote procedural hurdle on Supreme Court nominees.

The move allows Gorsuch and future Trump picks to now clear the upper chamber with a simple majority.

After the rule change, senators voted 55-45 to move to a final confirmation vote on Gorsuch's nomination.

Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinRepublicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (N.D.) sided with Republicans on the procedural vote. The three Democrats — who are each up for reelection next year in states carried by Trump in November — are the only Democrats expected to vote to confirm Gorsuch on Friday.

"I put party politics aside to support Judge Gorsuch because he is a most qualified jurist," Manchin said earlier Thursday after Democrats temporarily blocked his nomination.

McConnell and other GOP senators defended their decision to change the rules, arguing it was the only way Gorsuch and other Republican appointees could get confirmed to the bench.

“Our Democrat colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the Senate. Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point," McConnell said leading up the rule change. "We need to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate and get past this unprecedented partisan filibuster."