Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., speaks to reporters just outside the Senate chamber on Wednesday after he ended a 15 hour all-night talk-a-thon as the Senate heads toward a showdown over the confirmation vote for Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. | AP Photo
Jeff Merkley made Senate history after a more than 15-hour speech against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that ended at 10:13 a.m. on Wednesday. But his iron-man fortitude notwithstanding, the Oregon senator’s stemwinder will ultimately do nothing to stop Gorsuch’s confirmation.
It will, however, raise Merkley’s profile significantly. He was the first Democrat to vow to try and block Gorsuch, coming out against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before Trump even nominated Gorsuch. The senator’s speech was one of the Senate’s 10 longest since 1900.
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As soon as Merkley finished, he sent out a fundraising email that read: “We can’t give up now: Chip in right now to help us keep building the resistance!” Merkley denied the speech was about him, saying he was only trying to stop Republicans from confirming Gorsuch before the Easter Recess.
“I hope that somehow the message will reach a few hearts across the aisle that we are on a path that we have not yet completed. The seat has not yet been stolen,” Merkley told reporters afterward. “Let’s rethink what we’re doing.”
But Republicans showed no signs of doing so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came to the floor as Merkley finished to say that “Democrats would filibuster Ruth Bader Ginsburg if President Trump nominated her.” And Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who presided over the Senate for nearly an hour-and-a-half while Merkley spoke, said he had made “no” point.
“He didn’t have an open mind to consider the individual. It wasn’t about the person. It was about the person making a nomination,” Barrasso said.
Merkley suggested that the GOP should wait until there’s another vacancy on the court and then nominate Merrick Garland simultaneously with Gorsuch or another nominee.
“This seat is being stolen from one administration to the next. So the way to do that is to stop the theft,” Merkley told reporters.
The liberal Democrat’s speech was not technically a filibuster. McConnell has already locked in votes on Gorsuch’s confirmation, preparing to change the Senate rules when Democrats block Gorsuch. Instead, Merkley was attempting to appeal to Republicans to take a breather and reassess Gorsuch’s nomination.
But Merkley’s endurance was impressive: He was spelled only by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who asked Merkley a question in the morning, though Merkley never yielded the floor. After finishing, Merkley delivered bagels, muffins and a bag of coffee to Senate staffers to thank them for staffing the chamber while he spoke.