How Senate Democrats Could Force A Vote On SCOTUS Nomination

The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, has said that Republican senators will not give hearings for, or vote on, President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. There is a rarely used parliamentary maneuver that Senate Democrats could use to force the Senate to vote.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said the he expects that Senate Democrats will propose to discharge Garland’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee during an executive session of the Senate. Grassley said:

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Under the rules of the United States Senate, that resolution can be offered anytime. A Republican could offer it.”

Grassley acknowledged that the maneuver would put Republicans in a difficult position, and would be an affront to Majority Leader McConnell, saying:

“Whenever they take this vote — whether it would be based on confirming the nomination or whether it’s based on a discharge — it’s still going to be a tough vote.”

Senate Democrats are not currently considering the idea; they are focused on putting pressure on Republicans to use the standard political process for Supreme Court nominees.

The motion to discharge would be a nuclear option for Democrats, and Republicans would likely object. The motion would then lie over one day, at which point McConnell could move to table the motion. Republicans could then easily win a simple majority vote to kill the motion to discharge.

The motion to discharge would need 60 votes to discharge the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, should they reach that point. Technically, the vote wouldn’t be based on Garland’s merits because it is only a vote to get around the Judiciary Committee. It would stand to gauge where senators stand on Garland’s confirmation.

Senator Grassley thinks that Senate Democrats will force Republicans to vote on Garland’s nomination in some way. He said:

“If [Senate Republicans] think they’re going to avoid this issue entirely under the rules of the Senate, it is impossible because of the various motions that could be made.”

Featured Image by Richard Gillin, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.