Senate Democrats Appear Poised to Filibuster Gorsuch Nomination

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Monday appeared to secure the votes necessary to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, sending the body hurtling toward a bitter partisan confrontation later this week.

With an announcement from Senator Christopher Coons, Democrat of Delaware, during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing to vote on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, Democrats had found their 41st vote in support of a filibuster.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to approve the nomination later on Monday in a likely party-line vote to move President Trump’s selection to the Senate floor.

The committee vote is the first step in what will be a long, rutted road for Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation this week. Under current rules, Democrats can block Judge Gorsuch unless he receives support from eight non-Republicans to break a filibuster.

If the filibuster holds, Republicans have hinted strongly that they will pursue the so-called nuclear option, changing longstanding practices to elevate Judge Gorsuch on a simple majority vote.

The nomination fight has been shadowed, in large measure, by the treatment last year of Judge Merrick B. Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated last March after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Republicans refused to even consider Judge Garland during a presidential election year.

But Democrats insist their opposition to Judge Gorsuch stems from more than a thirst for payback. They have cited Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and his degree of independence from Mr. Trump and conservative groups like the Federalist Society, among other concerns.

During the committee vote, senators took turns lamenting the state of the institution they serve, even as most seemed resigned to the upheaval that awaits the chamber.

Perhaps no member sounded as aggrieved as Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the Senate’s longest-serving member.

He first suggested that treatment of Judge Garland by Republicans last year had convinced Judge Gorsuch that “this committee is nothing more than a partisan rubber stamp,” allowing the nominee to evade straightforward questions during his hearings.

He said that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, had pledged to seat Judge Gorsuch by any means required, “even if that means forever damaging the United States Senate.”

And he wondered aloud how the Senate had become so unrecognizable to him.

“I cannot vote solely to protect an institution when the rights of hard-working Americans are at risk,” Mr. Leahy said. “Because I fear that the Senate I would be defending no longer exists.”

Almost immediately, partisan sniping predominated at the committee meeting.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the committee’s chairman, accused Democrats of searching in vain for credible reasons to vote against Judge Gorsuch.

“This nominee that we’re voting on today is a judge’s judge,” he said. “He’s a picture of the kind of justice we should have on the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Grassley suggested that some attacks in recent weeks from Democrats, which have included criticisms of the spending push from outside groups supporting Judge Gorsuch, defied the country’s values.

“This is America,” he said, “where people can spend their money where they want to spend it.”

Taking her turn next, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, criticized Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and his reticence to answer questions.

She also reminded the public about the treatment last year of Judge Garland.

“In my view, this is not a routine nomination,” she said as she began her remarks.

In his comments, Mr. Grassley expressed no regrets. “I believe then and I believe now that we took the right course for the Senate and for the court,” he said.

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