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U.S. Senate Republicans have repealed a rule that allowed filibusters against Supreme Court nominees, a move that could have consequences for years to come.
With a 55-45 vote Thursday, Senate Democrats successfully used a procedure called a filibuster that requires 60 votes to win confirmation in the 100-seat Senate.
But moments later, Republicans resorted to the so-called “nuclear option,” a rule change that allows a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed by a simple majority regardless of opposition from the minority party.
The rule was repealed by a 52-48 vote, the same margin by which the Republicans control the Senate. It allows the full Senate to have a confirmation vote by Friday on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch.
The nuclear option is considered a break with tradition in the Senate.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer warned Republicans about changing the rules so that a simple majority is required.
“In 20 or 30 or 40 years, we will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court, a day when we irrevocably moved further away from the principles our founders intended for these institutions: principles of bipartisanship, moderation and consensus,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Some Democrats have charged Republicans with stealing a Supreme Court seat last year when the Republican-majority Senate refused to consider then President Barack Obama’s nominee, appellate Judge Merrick Garland, to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia , who died in February 2016.
If confirmed, the 49-year-old Gorsuch would fill the seat vacated by Scalia, and reinstate the nine-seat high court’s conservative majority.