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 McConnellOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Mellman: Why does the GOP persist? Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight 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 DonnellyEPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Senate approves funding bill, preventing partial government shutdown MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks The Hill's Morning Report — No new negotiations as shutdown hits 25 days MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks 2020 Election: Democrats can’t afford to ignore their Israel problem Hirono will donate salary earned during government shutdown 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."