Senate

McConnell tees up judicial nominees amid Supreme Court standoff

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is teeing up votes on several judicial nominees amid tensions over a high-stakes Supreme Court fight. 

McConnell has teed up votes on five district judges, paving the way for the Senate to take them up next week. 

McConnell's decision to schedule the votes comes as GOP leadership has warned their members they believe Democrats will force them to stay in session next week, instead of leaving until a vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's nomination later this month. 

"Schumer for obvious reasons I guess he wants all our folks down here. And if we're here we are ... going to be, you know, keeping the pipeline moving," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), about the GOP using next week to confirm lower court judges if they are in session. 

"I mean, I don't understand, in some ways that seems like that's a steep price for those guys to pay to get a bunch of red-state judges done for being here but evidently it's a bigger priority for them to have our 2020 class stuck here than on the campaign trail," he added. 

Senators had hoped to leave town until after the November elections after passing a stopgap funding bill. But the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has upended the end-of-year congressional agenda, with Republicans hoping to confirm Barrett as her successor by the end of the month.  

Democrats have not publicly tipped their hand about if they will prevent the Senate from adjourning and indicated on Wednesday night that the discussion within the caucus is ongoing. 

But they are upping their use of procedural tactics they can use to try to gum up the Senate and protest the GOP plan to confirm Barrett, absent a significant eleventh-hour setback, before the Nov. 3 elections. 

"Look we're going to have to find our way through this. ... The caucus will work through these things one issue at a time. But there's a lot of passion about using every procedural tool we've got to slow this down," Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) told reporters early Wednesday evening about the prospect of forcing the Senate to stay in session after this week.

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