WASHINGTON — President Trump told the Senate on Wednesday to “go nuclear” and eliminate Democratic filibuster rights if that’s what it takes to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
“I would say, it’s up to Mitch, but I would say ‘go for it,’ ” Trump told reporters, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Trump responded to a question about the so-called “nuclear option” against filibusters while meeting with political activists who are campaigning for Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Trump, who made a similar suggestion last week before his Supreme Court pick was known, nominated Gorsuch on Tuesday to fill the vacancy created last year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell has indicated that, at this point, he would keep current rules that would require Republicans to rack up 60 votes to break a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch.
Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats. But Trump aides and GOP senators who attended Tuesday’s nomination ceremony said they are confident that at least eight Democrats will oppose a filibuster and even decide to vote for Gorsuch.
Trump didn’t sound so sure.
“If we end up with that gridlock I would say, ‘if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,’” Trump said. “Because that would would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate’s top Democrat, said the “nuclear option” is a “false choice,” added: “If this nominee cannot meet the same standard that Republicans insisted upon for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees — 60 votes in the Senate — then the problem lies not with the Senate, but with the nominee.”
Trump’s guests at the White House included a variety of conservative political organizations that have pledged to campaign for Gorsuch’s confirmation, a group ranging from the National Rifle Association to Americans for Tax Reform. Groups are planning ads in states that have Democratic senators but which Trump won during last year’s election.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to help him win confirmation,” said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said he’s glad Trump picked a justice who has read the Constitution and “takes it seriously.”
Liberal groups are planning campaigns of their own to try and block Gorsuch.
“Trump wants to force through extremist Neil Gorsuch and entrench a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court for decades,” said a fundraising e-mail from the group Demand Progress.