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Isakson, Perdue and the Senate’s ‘nuclear’ spring

WASHINGTON – It’s been getting awfully ugly up here on Capitol Hill as the Senate hurtles toward a procedural showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that stands to reverse decades of precedent.

Democrats plan to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination later this morning. They've cited the GOP's treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, last year and argued that Gorsuch is too radical to be a consensus pick.

Republicans are prepared to move to change the chamber's rules -- invoking what's known here as the "nuclear option" -- to lower the threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to 51. (Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada did this for Cabinet and other judicial nominees back when he was in charge in 2013 but stopped short of the high court.) The GOP says Gorsuch is unquestionably qualified and that they're left with no choice but to change Senate rules in order to get an up-or-down vote.

Georgia's two Republican senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, have indicated they're on board with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he moves to cut off debate on Gorsuch and then change the rules, a maneuver that will set up a final confirmation vote on Friday.

"My option is always to be the team player. I'm on the team and I'll be doing what Mitch needs me to do," Isakson told reporters last week, referring to McConnell. He later said he regretted that the nuclear option was on the table and "that Democrats have put us in this position.”

Still on the mend from a pair of back surgeries, Isakson is expected to return to D.C. for the second time in as many weeks in order to ensure his party has enough favorable votes.

Perdue has echoed McConnell's claim that by this time next week Gorsuch will be confirmed.

"It's up to Democrats as to how that will happen," he said.

In an op-ed in The Macon Telegraph, Perdue and Isakson said Gorsuch is a "thoughtful jurist with the temperament we would expect of a Supreme Court Justice":

"We are impressed by the ample praise he has received from the people who know him best across the political spectrum, and we are convinced of his dedication to rely on the text of our Constitution and statutes when forming his opinions. We believe that he will serve with wisdom and distinction." 

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.