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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden, NATO eye 'all scenarios' with Russia Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe MORE (R-Maine) and Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden's public moment of frustration Russia announces military exercises amid standoff with US, NATO over Ukraine Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time 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 McConnellHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections The Armageddon elections to come MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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.