When Does The Senate Vote On Neil Gorsuch? Republicans Have A Backup Plan
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The battle is heating up over President Trump's controversial Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Democrats are within inches of having enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch's confirmation, and if they do, Republicans will be forced to either accept defeat or use the "nuclear option," and change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here: When is the Senate vote for Gorsuch?

The Judiciary Committee will vote on whether or not to pass Gorsuch's nomination to the full Senate on Monday. If the committee approves Gorsuch — and it almost certainly will, given that most of the committee members are Republicans — the full Senate will vote on Gorsuch's nomination on Friday, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. What happens then, however, is a mystery.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced in March that Democrats will attempt to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, thus blocking his appointment to the court. A successful filibuster requires 41 senators, and as of this writing, 39 have said they'll join this effort.  The latest was Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who announced Sunday that he'll take part in the filibuster. If two more Democrats follow suit, Republicans won't have the votes to confirm Gorsuch.

Should this happen, McConnell will have two options. He can either accept defeat and allow the Democrats to torpedo Gorsuch, or attempt to change the rules of the Senate as to eliminate the judicial filibuster entirely. The latter is sometimes called the "nuclear option," and it would only require 50 votes to succeed.  If Republicans muster 49 votes, the vice president could break a tie, and Mike Pence is expected to be in the chamber in case such a situation arises, according to CNN.

But Republicans only hold 52 seats in the Senate, meaning that McConnell can't afford to lose more than two Republicans on this procedural vote. Although it's unlikely that three Republican senators would defect on this, it is a theoretical possibility, as several Republicans have voiced skepticism about exercising the nuclear option.

McConnell, for his part, is publicly expressing confidence that he has the votes to break the Democrats' blockade and get Gorsuch seated on the Supreme Court.

"We're going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed this week," McConnell told Fox News Sunday. He didn't explicitly say that Republicans had the votes for the nuclear option, but that statement strongly implies that he does.