January 31, 2017
Top Senate Democrats are planning to skip President Trump’s high-profile unveiling on Tuesday night of his Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said he wouldn’t attend the White House’s prime-time event because it wasn’t an “appropriate roll out” for a pick.
“I don’t want to be standing there tonight in the crowd when they pull back the curtain and say here’s your nominee,” he told reporters. “Let’s do this in an orderly fashion.”
Durbin is a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will be responsible for vetting and green lighting Trump’s pick.
Spokesmen for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, also confirmed that the two top Democrat senators won’t attend Trump’s announcement.
Trump is expected to name his nominee on Tuesday evening at the White House, with two candidates brought to Washington, D.C., making the appearance that either could be chosen.
Vice President Pence reportedly invited GOP lawmakers to attend the event during a closed-door lunch.
GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) both said they expect to attend the roll out.
Trump’s pick will likely kick off a high-stakes fight in the Senate, where some Democrats are already pledging to filibuster any nominee they don’t support.
Durbin stressed earlier Tuesday that it was “too soon” for Democrats to issue a blanket pledge to fight a nominee without knowing who it is.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. To defeat a filibuster, they would need eight Democrats to cross party lines.
Asked if the threat that Republicans could go “nuclear” and get rid of the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees impacted his thinking, Durbin added “of course.”
Under a 2013 decision by Democrats — led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — the threshold for most nominations was lowered to a simple majority, but left in place for the Supreme Court.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is publicly flirting with getting rid of the 60-vote requirement for high court nominations if Democrats block Trump’s nominee, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly signaled he does not want to take that step.