Dem Senator Ends 15-Hour Protest With No Effect on Gorsuch Nomination

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) / Getty Images


Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) on Wednesday morning ended his 15-hour protest against Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, which the Senate will not delay considering despite the all-night marathon.

Merkley began speaking around 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday evening and finished at 10:14 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Hill.

During his protest, Merkley launched a broad-based attack against Gorsuch, discussing his past opinions among other issues. The Oregon lawmaker also repeated Democratic objections that Gorsuch's nomination represents a seat "stolen" from former President Obama's nominee to the high court, Judge Merrick Garland.

"I've been here through the night talking about this to say how important this is that we not do this, that to proceed to fill this stolen seat that will damage the court for decades to come and damage the Senate for decades to come," Merkley said on Wednesday morning.

Merkley accused Republicans of "court packing," a term that historically refers to Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt's plan to increase the number of Supreme Court justices past the traditional nine to protect New Deal legislation.

Though lengthy, Merkley's protest cannot forestall the process of considering Gorsuch's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) had already filed a motion for cloture on Tuesday morning, before Merkley began speaking. There will be an automatic procedural vote Thursday on ending debate on Gorsuch's nomination.

While liberal groups lauded Merkley's efforts, only one other senator joined him, Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). The Senate's second-ranking Democrat took to the Senate floor around 6:30 a.m., repeating many Democratic concerns about Gorsuch. He also reiterated attacks against outside spending in support of Gorsuch.

Durbin praised Gorsuch in recent weeks, calling him "very gifted," and voted to confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in 2006 before deciding to filibuster his Supreme Court nomination.

Merkley has opposed Gorsuch's nomination since it was first announced in late January, when he predicted Democrats would filibuster the nominee.

Republicans discounted Merkley's protest, which will have no impact on the cloture vote on Gorsuch's nomination.

Nathan Brand, spokesman for the conservative group America Rising Squared, told the Hill that Merkley's speech was like "those all-nighters before a test in college."

"While Senator Merkley's desperate floor speech may serve him well with his looney liberal base, it also shows how Senate Democrats have been co-opted by the extreme activists in their party," Brand said.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at

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