Leahy Changes Tune, Backs Gorsuch Filibuster | Off Message

Leahy Changes Tune, Backs Gorsuch Filibuster


Sen. Patrick Leahy questions Judge Neil Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. - RON SACHS / CNP VIA AP
  • Ron Sachs / CNP via AP
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy questions Judge Neil Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) did an about-face Monday and joined his caucus in an attempt to halt a Senate vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Leahy had been clear that he opposes Gorsuch’s ascendancy to the court. What’s new is his support for the parliamentary move to try to stop the Senate from voting on President Donald Trump’s nominee.

“I am not inclined to filibuster,” Leahy told VTDigger.org last week, “even though I’m not inclined to vote for him.”

He said otherwise during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. “I will not support advancing this nomination,” Leahy declared — which is to say he now is inclined to filibuster.

Under a Democratic filibuster, Republicans, who hold 52 of the 100 Senate seats, would need 60 votes to let Gorsuch’s nomination proceed.

Fellow Senate Democrats needed Leahy’s support to reach the filibuster-able number of 41, so the senior Vermont senator no doubt got pressure from the caucus leadership to go along. When he came into the fold, Leahy did so with gusto.

“Perhaps no member sounded as aggrieved as Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the Senate’s longest-serving member,” the New York Times reported Monday.

“This nominee has since refused to address any substantive issues during his testimony,” Leahy said during Monday’s committee hearing. “He has left this committee and the American people with only unresolved concerns.”

Leahy later cast a vote against Gorsuch’s nomination, but the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 to advance it.

The senior Vermont senator’s willingness to filibuster might turn out to be just as ineffective as his committee vote, however. The Republican Senate majority is looking to change the Senate rules so that they need a simple majority rather than 60 votes to approve a Supreme Court nomination.

Leahy accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of seeking to confirm Trump’s choice “even if that means forever damaging the Senate.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also said he’ll join Democrats in a filibuster.