Senate Democrats have clinched enough support to block Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, setting up a "nuclear" showdown over Senate rules later this week.
Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Senate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' MORE (D-Del.) announced on Monday that he will oppose President Trump's pick on a procedural vote where he will need the support of eight Democrats to cross a 60-vote threshold to end debate on Gorsuch. Coons is the 41st Democrat to back the filibuster.
“Throughout this process, I have kept an open mind. … I have decided that I will not support Judge Grouch's nomination in the Judiciary Committee meeting today," Coons said.
"I am not ready to end debate on this issue. So I will be voting against cloture," Coons said, absent a deal to avoid the nuclear option.
Unless one of the 41 Democrats changes their vote, the filibuster of Gorsuch will be sustained in a vote later this week.
Gorsuch's path to overcoming a filibuster closed on Monday after Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (Calif.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (Vt.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerPanic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Schumer announces Senate-House deal on tax 'framework' for .5T package MORE (Va.) each announced they would oppose Gorsuch's nomination.
Only four Democratic senators have said they will support President Trump's pick on the initial vote to end debate: Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sanders traveling to Iowa, Indiana to pitch Biden's spending package Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Poll from liberal group shows more voters in key states back .5T bill Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (W.Va.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuild Back Better Act must include funding to restore forests, make communities resilient and create jobs Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (Colo.).
Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are each up for reelection in states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. Bennet — who won reelection last year — has been under a microscope because of Gorsuch's ties to Colorado and didn't specify that he would vote for the nominee during a final vote.
Democrats have been under a mountain of pressure from liberal outside groups to block Gorsuch's nomination. Progressives argue that voting for his nomination — even on a procedural vote — helps enable Trump and is out of line with what the base of the party wants.
With Democrats now able to block Gorsuch's nomination, Republicans are expected to change the rules to circumvent the filibuster.
Though GOP leadership hasn't specifically said it will use the "nuclear option," GOP senators appear resigned to lowering the vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations.
"If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.) said during the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting on Gorsuch's nomination. "I hate that. I really, really do."
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican and a member of the committee, added that Gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of the week.
“If they're going to oppose Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they will never vote and never support a nominee of this President," he said.
With the Judiciary Committee expected to clear Gorsuch's nomination on Monday, a full Senate vote is expected by the end of the week.
Republicans are quick to note that Democrats, then led by Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.), used the nuclear option in 2013 to lower the confirmation threshold for lower court judges and executive nominees.
Graham compared Democratic complaints to an "arsonist complaining about the fire."
Only a few Democrats remain undecided on Gorsuch's nomination. Even if they agreed to support Gorsuch, Republicans would not have enough support to break a filibuster.
Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Manchin, Barrasso announce bill to revegetate forests after devastating fires Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress MORE (I-Maine) and Democratic Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don't punish India Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (N.J.) have yet to announce their position on the nominee. Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinLawmakers say innovation, trade rules key to small business gains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks House Democrat: Staff is all vaccinated 'because they don't like to be dead' MORE (D-Md.) previously left the door open to helping Trump's pick overcome the procedural hurdle.
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), a close ally of Graham's, told reporters late last week that he was having "conversations" about trying to find a deal to avoid changing the rules.
McCain, Graham and GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (Maine) are the three senators left from the 2005 "Gang of 14" who struck a deal to avoid nuking the filibuster.
Yet McCain lowered expectations that the talks would result in a similar deal.
"I'm having just a few conversations that I've been having for a long time with my friends on the Democratic side,” he said. “I'm not having negotiations, and there is no gang."
Liberal outside groups quickly praised Democrats for opposing Gorsuch and argued that Republicans would be to blame if they change the rules to confirm him.
"Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE is openly threatening to blow up the Senate to move the nominee of a president under an active FBI investigation for ties to the Russian government. Let's be clear: if the Republicans choose to blow up the Senate, it is their choice alone," said Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, added that Trump should withdraw Gorsuch's nomination and put forward a "consensus nominee."
“If Republicans go nuclear to confirm Gorsuch, that will be their fault and they will bear responsibility," she said. "Democrats are absolutely right to stand on principle."
— This story was updated at 1:53 p.m.