epublican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said Friday he would support changing the Senate's rules to bypass Democratic opposition and confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee and believes the Republican majority has the votes necessary to do it.
The Pennsylvania senator told an audience of hundreds at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, which is billed as the state's largest annual gathering of conservatives, that Republicans will do "whatever it takes" to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch. He also said Democrats have never said Gorsuch ignored or misapplied the law in cases before him.
Toomey said he is confident that Republicans have enough votes — there are 52 Republicans in the 100-member Senate — to take what is known on Capitol Hill as the "nuclear option" because it would amount to a dramatic departure from Senate norms of bipartisanship and collegiality.
"There's nobody that I know in the Republican conference that is looking forward to having to do this," Toomey said in an interview after his 26-minute speech. "But there's nobody that I know of in the Republican conference that thinks that we should have a four- or eight-year series of vacancies on the Supreme Court. And everybody recognizes that if the Democrats aren't willing to confirm Neil Gorsuch, there's no one they're going to confirm. So we just don't have any choice. I think that's the view of the vast majority of my colleagues."
Forty-one senators are necessary to block Gorsuch's nomination with a filibuster, and Democrats on Friday counted at least 36 who had pledged to do so. That includes Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. A Senate confirmation vote is expected late next week.
Unless 60 senators support Gorsuch, Republicans would have to change Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority vote in the Senate. Getting to 60 votes would require six more Democrats to back Gorsuch.
Toomey last year backed a Republican refusal to consider then-President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the high court seat left vacant by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Toomey said that he has no regrets about blocking Garland's nomination and that if voters had disagreed, they could have thrown out the Republican majority in the Senate and elected a Democrat for president.
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"I think we made the right call, and apparently most of the American people did too," Toomey said.