Negotiations to avert 'nuclear option' collapse ahead of Gorsuch vote

Negotiations to avert 'nuclear option' collapse ahead of Gorsuch vote
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Bipartisan negotiations involving as many as 10 senators hoping to avoid a floor blowup over the Senate rules and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch have collapsed, setting up a partisan showdown on Thursday.

A group of Republicans and Democrats led by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (R-Maine) and Christopher 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.) negotiated intensely in recent days in hopes of reaching a deal to avoid the nuclear option, a tactic GOP leaders plan to use Thursday to change the filibuster rule.  

Senate Republicans are poised to hold a simple majority vote to strip the minority party of the power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees — a rarely used and highly controversial tactic that would allow them to confirm Gorsuch without help from Democrats.

The participants revealed their last-minute scramble to reporters Wednesday after it became clear they would not reach an agreement. 

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“The negotiations with which I was heavily involved have failed to come up with a compromise, which saddens me. There’s so little trust between the two parties that it was very difficult to put together an agreement that would avert changing the rules,” Collins told reporters.

“I worked very hard over the weekend, as did several Democrats and several Republicans, but we were not able to reach an agreement,” Collins added, estimating that about 10 lawmakers were involved. 

She said she had calls as late as midnight and as early as 6:30 a.m. and worked all weekend “exchanging language," but couldn't reach a compromise.

Collins said she will ask colleagues to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid MORE (D-N.Y.) pledging opposition to eliminating the power to filibuster legislation.

Coons, who led the talks from the Democratic side, said the talks failed because of a lack of trust. 

“I invested a lot of time in the last week in meeting with, talking to and exchanging ideas with both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “At the end of the day there were a few key sticking points, one was the lack of trust because of the way Merrick Garland was treated.”

Many Democrats are still angry that Republicans refused to hold hearings or a floor vote on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s pick to fill late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.