Why do Dems need to phillybuster Gor-Such?

I am wondering why the conversation about a filibuster over Gorsuch is a thing… I know little of parliamentary procedure (other than I am happy I know little about it other than it is a PITA) . It seems to me they have 60 votes or not. If they do not have 60 votes, why would Dems have to filibuster?


In order to confirm Gorsuch, the senate must give 51 “yes” votes. Assuming voting occurs along party lines (which seems very likely based upon current information), the Republicans do have these votes.

However, in order to actually call a vote on the matter, the debate-before-the-vote must be concluded. In order to conclude the debate, one of two things must happen: Either nobody wants to talk any more, or they hold a vote to close the debate while it is still ongoing. While Gorsuch only needs 51 “yes” votes to be confirmed, a vote to close an active debate (called a “cloture vote”) would require more than that; 60 votes. Assuming voting occurs along party lines, the Republicans do not have enough votes to shut down an active debate.

So the presumed Democratic strategy is to prevent the matter from reaching a vote, because the Democrats do have enough votes to prevent the Republicans from stopping the debate, and as long as the debate continues, a vote cannot be called. And that is why the conversation about a filibuster over Gorsuch is a thing.


Thank you.


Just based on your question… I’d say because if the Dems didn’t make every effort to filibuster, their base would condemn them… and I would too.


I thought they needed 60 votes?

If the Dems don’t give them those 8 votes, McConnell could change the rules to a simple majority - like Harry Reid did for lower level appointments because the Republicans kept obstructing all of Obama’s appointments.

The nuclear option and all that? Putting a nail through the idea of bipartisan cooperation fully - although the Republicans pretty much did that over the last 8 years…

Is that referring to changing the rule on that cloture vote?

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Your quoted Wikipedia page is talking about a technique for changing any sort of senate rule by a simple majority vote, rather than by the more traditional 3/5 vote. This includes the rules surrounding a cloture vote, yes.

Confirmation of a supreme court justice only requires a simple majority. Justice Clarence Thomas, for example, was confirmed 52-48.

The “60 votes” thing that everyone is talking about is the number of votes needed to forcibly terminate an in-progress debate (such as a filibuster) over a supreme court justice confirmation via a cloture vote. (And previously, for other justice confirmations as well, until the Democrats changed it during Obama’s presidency, as you noted)

The “nuclear option” is that the Presiding Officer of the United States Senate (a role which is technically fulfilled by the Vice President, but is normally handled by the President Pro Tempore, which is a position currently held by Senator Orrin Hatch) can declare that any existing Senate rule is a “Constitutional issue”, and propose changes to that rule. Doing this suspends anything else that’s going on and triggers an immediate vote on that rule change, with a simple majority vote winning. Changes to senate rules normally require a 3/5 majority vote, but when something is decreed to be a “Constitutional issue” by the presiding officer in this manner, a simple majority is all it takes to change it, and this can happen in the middle of other Senate business.

So Senator Hatch can put forward the three-fifths-votes-for-cloture-of-a-supreme-court-justice rule as a “Constitutional issue”, proposing that it instead be changed to simple-majority, as an urgent Constitutional issue. This vote would then be taken immediately, with no debate permitted, so no filibuster would be possible to block it. Which is why this procedure about easily changing senate rules is how senators have chosen to circumvent filibusters in the past, and why it’s being contemplated again this time; filibusters can’t be used to stop it.

Note that Senator McConnell can’t actually do this. Only the Presiding Officer can, and right now, that’s Senator Hatch (or Vice-President Pence, I guess, if he wanted to visit the Senate and wear the Presiding Officer hat for the day). Of course, McConnell and Hatch are likely to be on the same side in this matter, so this whole final paragraph is a huge “well, technically…” comment. Sorry about that. But for understanding the distribution of power, it’s still important to note that McConnell himself doesn’t have the power to push the “nuclear button” on this; he needs either Hatch or Pence to do it.


The more I read this the less I understand it. :cold_sweat:


I think I spent about an hour writing and re-writing that comment; it would not be the first time that I have over-edited something to a point of complete incomprehensibility; sorry!

Simple version:

(Caveat: everything that follows assumes a fully staffed Senate. Numbers change if seats are vacant, or if there are more or less than 50 states. So if California gets divided up into six separate states, don’t rely on the numbers I’ve written below!):

  • Republicans currently control 52 votes in the senate.

  • Confirming a supreme court justice takes 51 votes, so assuming no surprises, the Republicans will win that vote.

  • However, before they can take that vote, Senate rules state that there must be a debate.

  • Senate debates don’t end until everybody stops talking.

  • Since the Democrats know they’ll lose the vote, they plan not to stop talking. That way, the vote can’t be held and the Republicans can’t vote to confirm Gorsuch. This “keep talking so they can’t actually hold the vote that we’d otherwise lose” tactic is commonly called a “filibuster”. There is lots of fascinating trivia about filibusters, but I won’t go into that here. :slight_smile:

  • In principle, the Republicans could force the debate to stop even if the Democrats want to keep talking. They would do this by calling a “cloture vote”, but this vote would require 60 votes to succeed. Since the Republicans don’t control 60 votes, this tactic to stop the filibuster will not work for them.

Net result: The republicans can’t confirm Gorsuch. Not because they don’t have enough votes to confirm him (they do), but because they don’t have enough votes to make the Democrats stop talking so they can even have the vote happen at all.

  • The “Nuclear Option” is that the Presiding Officer of the Senate (currently Senator Hatch or Vice-President Pence) can declare that any Senate rule suffers from a “Constitutional Issue” which requires an immediate vote, with 51 votes required to enact a proposed change.

  • ‘Cloture votes’ are a Senate rule, and so may be modified in this way, by being declared to be a “Constitutional Issue”.

  • The tactic being proposed in this case is that the Presiding Officer would declare that as a Constitutional issue, cloture votes specifically on supreme court justice confirmations should only require 51 votes. If this were to be done, any current activity in the Senate would pause so that a vote could immediately be taken on the Constitutional issue, with 51 votes required for the change to be made.

  • Republicans do control that many votes, and so could successfully change the rules governing cloture votes, in order to allow them to then successfully take a cloture vote (which would then require only 51 votes) to stop the Democrats’ filibuster, so they could hold the vote for confirming Gorsuch, which, as noted before, they have enough votes to win.

There’s all sorts of other interesting political stuff going on around this mess, such as some Democrats defecting about the filibuster and claiming that they’ll vote ‘yes’ for cloture, but ‘no’ for Gorsuch (these seem to be Democrats facing re-election in 2018, and whose states are red-leaning, but so far as we know, there aren’t enough of them to let the Republicans succeed at a cloture vote without changing the rules first). There has also been some interesting speculation that there’s likely to be some hard-core traditionalist Republicans who would vote against changing the cloture vote rules (and they’d only need two to defect away, to lose that vote as well… but I don’t believe any have publicly announced an intention to do this, yet).

So… there’s interesting times coming, next week… I am expecting to see some very large typefaces on newspaper front pages.


And the current state of play, summarised from today’s 538 politics podcast.

While the Republicans have enough votes to win the vote, the Democrats have just announced that they have enough votes to stop the Republicans from calling the vote. The Republicans have not yet announced yet, but it is assumed that they have enough votes to stop the Democrats from having the votes they need to stop the Republicans from calling the vote for which they have the votes to win, but no doubt we’ll be hearing about that over the next day or two.

No word yet on whether or not the Democrats have enough votes to stop the Republicans from having the votes they need to stop the Democrats from having the votes they need to stop the Republicans from calling the vote that they have the votes they need to win.

Moral of the story: Satire is dead.


Where was this Democratic enthusiasm when the Republicans flat-out refused Obama’s nomination?


Since McConnell and the Republicans wouldn’t even meet Garland, let alone allow debate or a vote, there wasn’t an official way for anyone to protest it. You can’t filibuster something that isn’t even up for debate.

Fun fact! Much like the Easter Bunny, Mitch McConnell doesn’t even think Merrick Garland exists.


dafuk u just say about the easter bunny?


Spoiler alert!

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I’d be quite happy for him not to be part of the senate, personally. Useless warmongering windbag.


The hypocrisy… it’s just dripping out of every orifice.


Neither the Easter Bunny nor Mitch McConnell think that Merrick Garland exists. :confused:


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The hypocrisy runs way deeper than just McConnell, who is a grade-A asshole - regular people on the right constantly make fun of liberals/progressives and millenials for being whiny, entitled, and self-important (among other things) - special snowflakes. Yes, they are resorting to attacks on character, because they clearly don’t understand the issues or how things affect them or else they wouldn’t be on the right.

There are no bigger special snowflakes than McConnell and the rest. They are the ones who act like the stereotypical spoiled only children that conservatives love to vilify - no compromises, no empathy, won’t even listen to anyone else. They will get their way, full stop, or they will change the rules so they get their way (everybody gets a trophy!).

Health care bill makes literally no sense, except for the rich who get huge tax cuts at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society? It’s OK honey, we’ll ram it through anyway. Mommy thinks you’re smart - such a little wonky-wonk! Here’s a trophy.

Did the scary black man get too many chances to positively affect outcomes in the supreme court for the younger generations to come? It’s OK honey, just ignore the constitutional rules and precedent you were elected to uphold. We’ll get you someone who will set the country back by decades next year. Here’s a trophy.

Is the president wholly unfit, unqualified, undignified, corrupt, and maybe even an agent of our biggest historical enemy? It’s OK honey, winning is all that matters. Here’s a trophy.

(this is, paraphrased, the sort of thing that’s directed at progressives in conservative memes)

What kind of even more unconstitutional (in spirit, at the very least) and decidedly un-American, un-democratic bullshit does it take to get conservative voters to open their eyes?

They are so stuck on gloating about winning that they’ve lost what little concept of reality and context they may have had - like how they reacted to Obama in much the same way progressives are reacting to Trump, and supported stonewalling anything Obama tried to do, except their primary reason for disliking Obama was that he’s not white (being orange apparently isn’t bad enough). Or, “he’s just doing exactly what he said he would do, why are you complaining?” - that is exactly why I am complaining, asshole - plus he’s not even doing that anyway, he’s doing what he can to enrich people who are already rich.


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