Sen. Rob Portman says he's hopeful Congress will be able to vote this week on Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, without invoking the so-called "nuclear" option—but he'd support it as a last result.
Right now, Congress requires 60 votes to proceed to vote on a nominee. Then, it takes just a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
The "nuclear option" would do away with that 60-vote requirement, which Democrats can prevent even as a minority party. Both parties have historically been hesitant to do away with the filibuster.
“I would hope that Democrats wouldn’t do it, and instead that they would just let us have a vote," Portman said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "Let’s have a vote on him up or down. Let’s see what the results are.”
Last year, Republicans notably did not allow an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee for the court vacancy.
Portman says he hopes Gorsuch gets confirmed without Senate having to resort to the "nuclear" option.
“There are a couple of Democrats who have supported him, and there’s obviously a bipartisan majority that supports this guy," Portman says. "He is an incredibly qualified candidate.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown announced quickly after Gorsuch's nomination in January that he would vote no, due to the judge's record on businesses and civil rights.
Portman says he will stand with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if he moves to change the filibuster rules. McConnell has said he does not favor invoking the nuclear option, but he has publicly promised Gorsuch will be confirmed Friday no matter what.
“I don’t like the idea of making the place more partisan,” Portman says. “On the other hand, when you’ve got an incredibly well-qualified candidate who cannot be confirmed because he’s being blocked, I think unreasonably for partisan reasons in many cases, that makes it tough. I mean, who could be confirmed?”