Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) said he is "not inclined to filibuster" Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, which would place him at odds with Democratic leadership, The Hill reports.
Leahy said in an interview Sunday that he would almost certainly vote against Gorsuch's confirmation, but he signaled opposition to efforts by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination. Current Senate rules dictate a Supreme Court nominee must get 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate.
"I am not inclined to filibuster, even though I’m not inclined to vote for him," Leahy told VTDigger.
Schumer announced in a floor speech last week that he would vote against Gorsuch and encouraged his Democratic colleagues to do likewise. If Gorsuch could not get 60 votes, he said, then President Trump should nominate someone else.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate and would need eight Democrats to join them to bring Gorsuch's nomination to a floor vote. If unsuccessful, however, they can invoke the so-called "nuclear option" and discontinue the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
The groundwork for such a move was laid in 2013, when-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) used the nuclear option to stop Republican filibusters of President Obama's executive and judicial branch nominees. It was celebrated by liberals at the time.
"I do think the end of the filibuster hurts everybody," Leahy said. "I was very reluctant to see us use the nuclear option, thought I don’t think we would have seen any of President Obama’s judges go through without it."
Leahy sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and grilled Gorsuch last week over his views and rulings. He was one of several Democrats to take exception to Gorsuch's originalist approach to jurisprudence, saying it went beyond being a philosophy to being an "agenda."
However, Gorsuch's confirmation hearing performance was widely praised, with commentators saying he was clearly qualified and that he successfully batted down Democratic efforts to make him look outside the mainstream.