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Republicans Hit 'Nuclear' For Gorsuch After Bennet Issues Warning Over Fallout

Office of U.S. Senator David Perdue

Senate Democrats have followed through on their threat to filibuster the nomination of federal judge Neil Gorsuch for the vacant Supreme Court seat, but Colorado’s Michael Bennet was not among them. That led Republicans to change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote.

It’s the so-called “nuclear option.”

Bennet spoke for nearly 18 minutes on April 5, expressing wariness about how it might affect future nominations.

“This president may have several more opportunities to nominate a Supreme Court justice during his term,” he said. “If that happens, Republicans would face enormous pressure to nominate an extreme candidate, knowing they could confirm them without a single Democratic vote, indeed that they would be expected to confirm them without a single Democratic vote.”

After the rules change, which Bennet voted against, he said in a statement, "Today’s changes to the Senate’s rules have done lasting damage to the Supreme Court and our process for approving nominees."

He also said that he will vote against Gorsuch's nomination.

Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s other senator and a Republican, wrote in an opinion for the Colorado Springs Gazette that the Democrats’ filibuster is an “unprecedented level of obstruction.”

“My colleagues are free to vote against Judge Gorsuch, but they should abandon their attempt to filibuster his nomination and follow the 230-year-old Senate practice of requiring a simple majority vote,” he wrote. “A supremely qualified jurist like Judge Gorsuch deserves nothing less.”

Gardner has before said that he supports looking at the “nuclear option.” He voted in favor of the rules change on April 6.

Gorsuch, if confirmed, would be the only justice from the West sitting on the current Supreme Court. The Colorado native currently serves on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He describes himself as a strict textualist -- following the letter of the law as it is written -- in the vein of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

During his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans praised Gorsuch’s adherence to precedent and his many years of experience, while Democrats were critical of previous rulings they said favor of big business and work against disabled students.

Before the rules change, Supreme Court nominees were confirmed by a 60-vote threshold.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include an additional statement from Bennet and a video from Gardner, both released after publication. 

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