Senate Democrats have assembled enough votes to mount a filibuster that would block consideration of President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, setting up a fight over the chamber's rules that is expected to result in the triggering of the "nuclear option" by Republicans. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.), Chris Murphy (D, Conn.), Ted Cruz (R, Texas) and Rand Paul (R, Ky.) have all taken to the Senate floor for symbolic filibusters on a variety of issues and legislation. It's possible McConnell will have his whole party - 52 votes - behind him, but not all Republicans have explicitly said they will back him in the effort.
However, Republicans say they will simply change the rules in order to get Gorsuch confirmed, with a move called the "nuclear option". They are viewed as an important procedural check on the power of the party in control, which can end a fillibuster only if it can muster 60 votes.
McConnell told reporters he has the votes to change the rules.
Sen. Chris Coons of DE became the key 41st vote for the Democrats, declaring during a committee debate that Gorsuch's conservative record showed an activist approach to the law, often in favor of business interests, and that he evaded questions during his confirmation hearings.
To date, just four Democrats have announced their support.
The pending developments prompted much hand-wringing from senators on both sides of the aisle about the future of the Senate as a bipartisan and deliberative body, though they themselves were in position to prevent it from happening and failed to do so.
Trump says US is ready to act alone on North Korea
When asked whether unilateral action would be successful, the US president responded with a single word: " totally ". Last year, the North conducted two nuclear tests and two dozen tests of ballistic missiles.
You only need a majority to change that rule.
Sen. Susan Collins of ME, who hasn't said how she will vote on the nuclear option, argued that both parties "will rue the day" that led to the likely rule change.
But fellow Republican Tom Cotton appeared unperturbed, saying he would be glad to be rid of Democratic threats to block any conservative nominee that Trump puts forward. "It's interesting that Republicans were dead set against it when my former colleague Harry Reid invoked it with the judges, but now it seems to be OK", McCain said.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding a nuclear option, Republicans remain optimistic.
"This fallout will be dangerously and perhaps disastrously radioactive for the Senate for years to come", he said. The change is known on Capitol Hill as the "nuclear option" because of the potential repercussions for the Senate and the court.
During Merkley's marathon speaking session, which was televised on C-SPAN, he noted Republicans' opposition past year didn't conduct a hearing for President Barack Obama's pick, Garland, to fill the Supreme Court seat after the death of Antonin Scalia on February 14, 2016.
"I think they are trying to play to their own base", Kondik said.