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Gorsuch nomination clears committee, faces rocky road in US Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted April 3 to advance Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, but enough Democrats oppose his nomination to invoke a filibuster that would prevent the full U.S. Senate from voting on his appointment.

Democrats have crossed the 41-vote threshold to carry out a filibuster, according to a news report from Axios. The lack of support from Democrats means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would have to rely on the "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority of Senate votes, rather than the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

McConnell has yet to confirm whether he will invoke the nuclear option, but in an April 3 press release recalled that Democrats altered Senate procedures in November 2013 to allow judicial nominees, excluding those for the Supreme Court, to be confirmed with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate. Democrats made the move to aid confirmation of former President Barack Obama's nominees to federal courts.

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch on Feb. 1 to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Gorsuch is a conservative judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit who has called for limiting deference to federal agencies' interpretations of vague statutes, a legal precedent known as the Chevron deference. Gorsuch's stance on the Chevron doctrine was among the parts of his judicial history that troubled Democrats during his confirmation hearings. Democratic lawmakers were also bitter that Senate leaders refused to hold hearings to consider Obama's nominee to replace Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland.