Dem senator: Party will filibuster Trump Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Park Service plans to pay full-time staff through entrance fees | Oil companies join blitz for carbon tax | Interior chief takes heat for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs MORE (D-Ore.) on Monday predicted that Democrats would launch a filibuster against whoever President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE picks for the Supreme Court. 

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley told Politico. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this. ... I will definitely object to a simple majority.” 

Though any senator can require a 60-vote threshold for a Supreme Court nominee, filibusters against picks for the top court remain rare. Democrats last tried to use the filibuster to block Justice Samuel Alito under President George W. Bush's administration and failed. 

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But Merkley's remarks reflect the heated tensions around the judicial branch ahead of Trump's announcement on Tuesday. Democrats are still quick to point out that Republicans refused to give Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a hearing or a vote. 

Republicans have also been gearing up for the looming court battle, urging Democrats to treat Trump's first nominee the same way as Supreme Court picks under President Obama's first term. 

“Under [President Bill] Clinton, [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg and [Stephen] Breyer, no filibuster, no filibuster. In other words, no one required us to get 60 votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters last week. “Under Obama, [Sonia] Sotomayor and [Elena] Kagan, no filibusters. That's apples and apples. First term, new president, Supreme Court vacancy.”

He added, “What we hope would be that our Democratic friends will treat President Trump's nominees in the same way that we treated Clinton and Obama.”

Trump said Monday that he would announce his pick to replace Scalia Tuesday night.

It’s not clear if Democrats would be able to support a filibuster on any Trump pick.

A number of Democrats in the Senate represent red states that voted for Trump — and many of them are up for reelection next year.

The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), which has ties to McConnell, quickly sent out emails questioning whether the red-state Democrats would back Merkley’s filibuster.

Of Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Labor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners MORE (D-W.Va.), the group said: “Will he stand with the people of his state who overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump to be able to pick a Supreme Court nominee? Or will he stand with [Sens.] Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE [Mass.], Bernie SandersBernie SandersHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Lee, Sanders introduce bill to tax Wall Street transactions MORE [Vt.], and the rest of the Democratic caucus that only cares about its far left base of permanent protesters?”

The SLF sent out similar releases for Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (Mo.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Obama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn 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 Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes MORE (N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds GOP angst grows amid Trump trade war MORE (Mont.), who are each up for reelection in states carried by Trump. 

Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate and would need eight Democrats to vote with them to break a filibuster.

The GOP also could opt for the “nuclear option” by changing Senate rules to get rid of the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees. McConnell has repeatedly signaled he does not want to take that step, most recently in an interview with The Hill on Friday.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) also sent out a release questioning if “eight is enough,” playing off Democrats slogan last year that the Supreme Court needed nine justices. 

“National Democrats’ lurch to the left is quickly becoming a problem for Senate Democrats up for reelection in red states,” said NRSC spokesman Bob Salera. “It will be telling whether Senate Democrats honor the will of voters and listen to their own ‘We need nine’ rhetoric or side with Keith Ellison and the far left, and adopt a ‘take our ball and go home’ strategy with the Supreme Court.”                                               

Senate Democratic leadership hasn't publicly signed on to Merkley's push, but Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE (D-N.Y.) has pledged to fight “tooth and nail” if Trump's nominee isn't “mainstream.”

“If the nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream, we absolutely will keep the seat open,” Schumer told CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this month.