Democrats just moved a little closer to filibustering Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced Thursday that he will oppose President Trump’s nominee on a cloture vote, prepping the way for a potential filibuster.
Speaking on the Senate floor, the New York Democrat argued that Gorsuch “almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak,” that he “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on President Trump, and that he’s “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.”
As the leading Democrat in the Senate, Schumer’s opposition to Gorsuch isn’t surprising, but going a step further and saying that he would vote against cloture was the loudest telegraph yet of potential Democratic plans for a filibuster. “I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Schumer said.
Senate rules require 60 votes to end debate and hold an up-or-down vote on a Supreme Court nominee, then a simple majority to confirm them. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate, so they could confirm Gorsuch along party lines, but they’ll need eight Democrats to join them in voting to end debate.
Ten Democrats are up for reelection in states that Trump won, so Republican lobbying efforts have already been underway to push them not to filibuster. But in the event that Republicans couldn’t get 60 votes, they could still trigger the so-called “nuclear option” to end the filibuster entirely, which would allow them to muscle Gorsuch through with a simple majority.
Schumer warned Republicans against taking that option.
“The answer isn’t to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee,” he said.
Schumer’s announcement came during the fourth and final day of Gorsuch’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Throughout the week Gorsuch calmly refused to answer questions about specific cases, leading the senators to bicker among themselves about partisanship on the committee.
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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com