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Rush Limbaugh Says 1 Person Is Taking Over The GOP


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URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournalism.com/rush-limbaugh-says-1-person-is-taking-over-the-gop/?

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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made a bold statement on his program about Steve Bannon and the current state of the Republican Part y.

Limbaugh believes Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, is taking over the roles and responsibilities meant for GOP leadership by enforcing conservatism onto Republican candidates up for re-election.

“I think what Bannon is doing is slowly but surely taking over the role of the Republican Party,” Limbaugh said Wednesday. “The Republican Party is obviously not with Trump on balance — you have some in the House who are — but the Republican Party on balance is not with Trump.”

Steve Bannon played a major role in then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential victory upset last year and led the formulation of White House policy in the months that followed. He was Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 election and later served as a White House chief strategist — leading the nationalist wing of the administration.

After abruptly leaving the administration in mid-August, Bannon returned to his prior position as executive chairman of Breitbart News. Since leaving the White House, he made it clear he would use his position as a media executive to support insurgent conservative candidates running primaries against establishment GOP lawmakers.

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Bannon already appears good for his word.

In the special election in Alabama to fill the Senate seat once held by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Bannon went against the Trump administration with his endorsement of Roy Moore. Bannon supported the successful candidacy of Moore, a controversial former judge, in a move that was at odds with Trump, who campaigned vehemently for Moore’s opponent, Sen. Luther Strange. By election day, it wasn’t even close. Moore bested Strange in the GOP primary by almost double digits. Moore now heads into the Alabama general election, where he will likely win in a state that leans red.

The primary results demonstrated the power of Bannon’s support.

The leader of Breitbart is not stopping with the Alabama special election. Bannon has recently announced he is expanding his GOP targets, adding Republican Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah to his hit list.

> In Wyoming, Bannon is pushing Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of major security contractor Blackwater, to challenge Barrasso, CNN reported. 

> In Utah, Hatch may very well retire on his own. If he does, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is reportedly eyeing a run in the Mormon-majority state. If that happens, Bannon is ready to run a candidate against him.

According to a source close to Bannon, this is just a “partial” list of elections he is looking to influence.

Bannon is already working to knock off Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and his beleaguered campaign for re-election. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker are also on Bannon’s radar.

“Some people make an argument that there really isn’t a Republican Party left. I mean, there are people who call themselves that and they go out and raise money and they raise a lot. But whereas the party used to be known for one, two, or three very serious things, they’re not anymore,” Limbaugh added on his radio show.

The conservative talk radio host believes Bannon and others are trying to keep the identity of the Republican Party alive by enforcing such standards onto them by way of primary challenges.

DeVos charges ahead on school choice


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DeVos charges ahead on school choice | © Greg Nash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has become an ardent foot soldier for President Trump’s deregulatory agenda while aggressively pushing her own school choice initiatives. The billionaire businesswoman was one of Trump’s most controversial Cabinet selections, with Democrats and liberal groups assailing her lack of experience in public schools and her years at the helm of an organization that promoted school privatization.

The criticism hasn’t faded, but DeVos is charging ahead. She’s spent her first six months in office following Trump’s orders to cut regulatory red tape while making the case that charter schools and private school vouchers are the answer to the nation’s educational woes.

“Our nation’s commitment is to provide a quality education to every child to serve the public, common good. Accordingly, we must shift the paradigm to think of education funding as investments made in individual children, not in institutions or buildings,” DeVos said in March, according to prepared remarks for a speech at the Brookings Institution. 

But her message isn’t swaying opponents, who criticize her agenda as siphoning federal funding away from public schools and giving it to private schools that cater to the elite.

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, a teachers union that opposed DeVos’s confirmation, said the school choice message is falling flat because people can do the math. 

“Ninety percent of kids go to public schools. 10 percent go to private schools,” she said. “If you take resources away than it hurts public school kids. They have less.” 

The National Education Association, a teachers union, was among the groups that opposed DeVos’s confirmation. The opposition to DeVos was so intense that two Republicans voted against her, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote — something that had never before happened for a Cabinet secretary.

Before DeVos took office, Eskelsen García said educators were having a great debate about ways to improve public education following the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law rolled back high stakes testing and allowed states to come up with their own academic standards.

“Taking money away from public schools and giving it to private schools is not on that list, but for DeVos it’s the only thing on her list, ” Eskelsen García said.

DeVos has been pushing school choice every chance she gets.

In March she called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “real pioneers when it comes to school choice” in a statement after meeting with dozens of HBCU leaders.

“They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality,” she said. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

Her remarks generated a backlash, as critics noted that HBCUs were created not out of choice but necessity because of racial segregation.

DeVos has since walked back those remarks, telling the AP last week she “should have decried much more forcefully the ravages of racism in this country.” 

Despite the gaffe and constant criticism she receives, supporters of DeVos say she is making headway on her agenda.

“There’s no question she got off to a less than smooth start, but I think in the last few weeks and months she’s beginning to find her sea legs and as a result she’s had a fair amount of success given the tremendous opposition she’s been facing from the education establishments,” said Ed Patru, a vice president at the D.C. public affairs firm, DCI Group, and the former spokesman for the now dissolved Friends of Betsy DeVos coalition.

“She’s laying the groundwork for federal school choice, she’s reorienting the Office of Civil Rights towards due process and civil engagement and when it comes to spending priorities, she put forth a budget proposal that brings the department back to a much more focused mission.”

DeVos’s budget plan called for cutting $9 billion from the department in 2018, including $2.3 billion in teacher training grants and $1.2 billion for an after school programs that serves children in some of the nation’s poorest communities, while investing $1.4 billion on new public and private school choice opportunities.

“Look, this is what the American people elected,” Patru said.

“They wanted change and an outsider’s perspective and she certainly brings that to the department.” 

Aside from school choice, DeVos has announced plans to redo the gainful employment and the borrower defense to repayment rules — two Obama-era regulations aimed at ensuring students at for-profit colleges get the education they pay for.

DeVos had said the Education Department’s regulatory reform task force, which Trump ordered each agency to create, has found another 150 regulations for the department offices to review.

She also joined Attorney General Jeff Sessions in rescinded guidance directing schools to let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. That’s the policy change that gets to Eskelsen García the most.

“These are incredibly vulnerable children that face incredible discrimination in their little lives,” she said. “She could have, without it costing a dime, left that protection in place and she took it away.”  

Jennifer Steele, an associate professor of education at American University, was an initial supporter of DeVos. In an op-ed for Education Week in March, she argued that the left should give the new secretary of Education a chance.

Now, following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, Steele said DeVos should demonstrate a stronger respect for traditional public schools in addition to the private education alternatives she’s pushing.

“The purpose of schooling is to expose people to diverse ideas and experiences. By allowing people to opt out of public schooling we risk having a more fragmented society and in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, that’s really an increasing concern,” she said.

“I’d like to see this administration grapple with that question a bit more, how to ensure a threshold of education for all children and exposure to diverse people and ideas in their schools.”

Trump declares ‘racism is evil’ after firestorm


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URL of the original posting site: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/346483-trump-declares-racism-is-evil-after-firestorm

 

President Trump declared Monday that “racism is evil” in public comments at the White House, and for the first time called out the KKK, Nazis and other hate groups specifically for their role in this weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to what we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in a surprise statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room.

He spoke after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The president pledged to hold accountable “anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence.”

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“Justice will be delivered,” he said.Trump’s remarks, which he read from a teleprompter, and the meeting with top law enforcement officials were clearly intended to send a new signal from the White House after the president came under fierce criticism from members of both parties for an initial response in which he blamed “many sides” for what happened in Charlottesville.

He did not specifically mention white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or any other groups that marched in Charlottesville in those remarks on Saturday.

One person was killed and 19 other injured when police say a 20-year-old Ohio man with ties to white supremacist groups drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the “Unite the Right” rally. White supremacist groups had also marched through Charlottesville chanting slogans against Jews and other groups.

The Justice Department has opened a civil-rights investigation into the car attack.

Trump spoke personally for the first time about the victim, Heather Heyer, 32, saying, “her death fills us with grief, and we send her and her family our thoughts, our prayers and our love.”

He also mourned the two police officers who died in a helicopter crash during the incident — H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates.

Trump did not refer to the attack as an act of terrorism, a description used by his national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday. But he said that his administration will “spare no resource” in working to fulfill a campaign promise to restore law and order.

The president did not directly address minority and nonwhite groups who might have felt victimized by Saturday’s events, instead making a general call for unity.

“We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said. “We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”

Trump had come under heavy criticism from his own party over his initial response to the violence, with some Republicans signaling deep disappointment. “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, tweeted Saturday.

Trump, who has a well-known distaste for admitting any mistake, waited nearly another 48 hours before offering the new remarks. They came after he had lashed out Monday morning at the CEO of the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. for resigning from a White House advisory council over the president’s initial comments.

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said.

“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump tweeted in response.

Trump began his remarks Monday by talking about the growth in the American economy, and took no questions after his statement.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), speaking on MSNBC immediately after Trump’s remarks, said he was glad to see the president call out the white supremacist groups, though he added that he wished it would not have taken so long. “I wish he would have said those same words on Saturday,” he said. “I’m disappointed it took him a couple of days.”

The events of the past three days have created yet another crisis for the embattled president. The president returned to Washington on Monday for a day of work, interrupting his 17-day summer vacation at his private golf club in New Jersey. Trump was already battling criticism of his handling of a nuclear standoff with North Korea when clashes between white nationalists and counter protesters broke out in Charlottesville.

The controversies coincide with Trump’s struggles to hold together the base that helped elect him president. His approval rating dropped to the lowest level of his presidency, according to Gallup’s daily tracking poll. The survey was conducted over a three-day period ending Sunday, meaning that some of the respondents participated before the Charlottesville incidents.

Ben Kamisar contributed.

Trump Administration Rewards Miami For Reversing Its Sanctuary Policies


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URL of the original posting site: http://www.westernjournalism.com/trump-administration-rewards-miami-reversing-sanctuary-policies/

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Miami-Dade County was told Friday by the Department of Justice that it will no longer be treated as a so-called sanctuary city after the county changed its policies in February surrounding detaining jailed inmates sought by federal authorities for deportation.

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez was notified by Alan Hanson, an acting assistant attorney general, that the DOJ found “no evidence that Miami Dade County is currently out of compliance,” clearing the way for the county to receive $481,347 in federal law enforcement funding in form of a Byrne JAG grant.

Miami was first classified as a sanctuary city by the Obama administration for its 2013 policy that authorized the county to begin denying “detainer” requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The policy provided that the county would only hold inmates sought for deportation if they faced severe charges and if the federal government would reimburse the county for extra detention time.

But shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January, Gimenez dropped the policy, ordering county jails to comply with ICE detentions requests.

The Miami-Dade Commission voted 9-3 in February in support of the mayor’s policy to honor ICE detention requests.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in July that the DOJ would impose new conditions on Byrne JAG grants, a leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.

“From now on, the Department will only provide Byrne JAG grants to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities,” Sessions said in a statement announcing the new restrictions.

Miami-Dade’s decision to change its sanctuary status worked. The county received assurances from the DOJ Friday that it was in compliance and would receive a Byrne JAG Grant valued at $481,347, which will go towards enhancing the Miami Dade Police Department’s “intelligence gathering and police operations with investments in technology and specialized equipment,” according to Gimenez.

“This is good news,” said Gimenez’s communications director, Michael Hernández.

Hernández said the county is now requesting that the Trump administration remove Miami-Dade from the Obama administration’s original list of sanctuary cities.

“We’d like to have formal notification that we are no longer a sanctuary community,” Hernández said. “That request is being made.”

Miami-Dade is the only large jurisdiction in the country known to have complied with Trump’s request to crack down on its sanctuary city policy. Other sanctuary cities, such as Chicago, are calling foul at the Trump administration’s new restrictions surrounding Byrne JAG grants. Chicago was expected to receive $3.2 million in federal grants this year to purchase law enforcement equipment. But instead of complying, Chicago opted on Monday to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration to prevent it from enforcing the new policies.

“We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric, the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grants funds are breeding a culture and climate of fear,” said the senior legal adviser for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Sunday it was “tragic” that Emanuel was more concerned about protecting illegal immigrants than he was by the high murder rate on the streets of Chicago.

“It’s especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago’s law enforcement at greater risk,” Flores said in a statement.

Chicago is the first city to challenge the Trump administration over its new restrictions surrounding Byrne JAG grants.

Trump Team Attends Weekly White House Bible Study


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URL of the original posting site: http://www.westernjournalism.com/trump-team-attends-weekly-white-house-bible-study/

Several members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, as well as Vice President Mike Pence are meeting together for a weekly Bible study at the White House. CBN News reported that Trump’s cabinet has been called “the most evangelical” in the history of the country.

Regular attendees to the study include Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Pence — who described himself at the 2016 Republican National Convention as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” — attends the study as often as his busy travel schedule permits.

The study is led by former NBA player Ralph Drollinger, who played for the UCLA Bruins under legendary coach John Wooden and became the first player in NCAA history to make it to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament four times. The Bruins won the national championship in two of those years.

Wooden was also an evangelical Christian, who sought to coach his team integrating Christian principles.

After his retirement from the NBA, Drollinger founded Capitol Ministries, which has launched Bible studies in 40 state capitols, as well as several foreign nations. Its mission is to evangelize and disciple public servants.The organization also leads weekly studies at the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Drollinger told CBN News that about a dozen members attend his weekly White House study.

“These are godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture,” he said. “It’s the best Bible study that I’ve ever taught in my life. They are so teachable; they’re so noble; they’re so learned.”

Drollinger said he believes the regular study is the first formal one in the White House in at least 100 years.

The Christian leader spoke highly of Pence, likening him to key Biblical leaders whom God raised up to the second-highest spot in government, including Joseph, Daniel and Mordecai.

“And I praise God for Mike Pence, who I think with Donald Trump chose great people to lead our nation,” Drollinger said.

Trump is invited to the study, and receives notes following each week’s meeting.

As reported by Western Journalism, Trump’s top spiritual adviser, Pastor Paula White, said that the president has “heart for God, a hunger for God.”

She added that Trump “has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve had in-depth conversations about God.”

A reverence for God and the Bible in Washington has strong precedent. The largest Protestant church congregation in the country used to meet at the U.S. Capitol in the 1800s. At its height, over 2,000 attended weekly, including members of Congress and the executive branch.

Thomas Jefferson was a regular attendee, both as vice president and president.

Senate confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court, giving Trump big win


The Senate on Friday confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, giving President Trump the biggest victory of his first 100 days in office. The 54-45 vote caps a bitter political battle that began with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago and resulted in the Senate triggering the “nuclear option,” breaking Democrats’ blockade and ending filibusters for Supreme Court nominees.

Three Democrats facing reelection next year in strongly pro-Trump states voted for Gorsuch: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

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But two Democrats facing reelection in 2018 in states Trump won by double digits — Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) — voted no, a reflection of Trump’s slumping approval rating among independents and the boiling rage of the Democratic base over his 2016 electoral victory.

Gorsuch will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s 101st associate justice on Monday. 

Chief Justice John Roberts is set to administer the Constitutional Oath in a private ceremony at 9 a.m., and Justice Anthony Kennedy will administer the oath at a public ceremony at the White House later in the morning.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said the fight will leave a scorch mark on the Senate because Republicans employed the nuclear option.

“It will make this body a more partisan place. It will make the cooling saucer of the Senate considerably hotter, and I believe it will make the Supreme Court more of a partisan place,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, argued that the change to the filibuster, which Republicans made with a party-line vote Thursday, would restore the Senate to its tradition of not filibustering judicial nominees.

He praised Gorsuch’s credentials Friday as “sterling,” his record as “excellent” and his judicial temperament as “ideal.” He said he wished “that important aspects of this process had played out differently” but held out hope that “today is a new day” and that Democrats would not hold a grudge as the chamber considers other priorities this year.

“I hope my Democratic friends will take this moment to reflect and perhaps consider a turning point in their outlook going forward,” he said.

Some Democrats questioned whether it was worth getting into a showdown with McConnell over Gorsuch and losing their power to filibuster future Supreme Court nominees. These few dissenters thought it might be tougher for Republicans to change the rules if a swing seat on the court became open later on in Trump’s term, when he might have less political capital.  Democratic leaders, however, disagreed, arguing that McConnell would be just as likely like to change the rules in the future.

Democrats tried to block Gorsuch because they said his rulings tended to favor powerful interests over average people and also because they were still furious over Republicans’ treatment of Merrick Garland, whom President Obama nominated a year ago to fill the vacancy left by Scalia.

McConnell announced immediately after Scalia’s death that Garland would not receive consideration by the GOP-controlled Senate and that the winner of the presidential election should pick the nominee. Democrats argued that decision broke 230 years of precedent and would best be remedied by Gorsuch withdrawing and Trump picking a “more mainstream candidate.”

That proposal went nowhere as Republicans argued that Trump made clear during last year’s campaign that he would pick a judge from a list of 21 conservatives, on which Gorsuch was included.

A CNN exit poll showed that 56 percent of Trump voters said the Supreme Court was “the important factor” in their votes, and 46 percent said it was “an important factor.”

Gorsuch isn’t likely to change the most recent ideological balance of the court as he replaces one of its most outspoken and conservative jurists. He called Scalia a “mentor” at his confirmation hearings and, like his predecessor did, takes an “originalist” approach to the law meant to hew to the intentions of the Founding Fathers and follow legal language strictly. That approach became a sticking point for Democrats, who criticized him for relying on what they called overly literal readings of the law to decide in favor of those in power, such as a trucking company in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board that fired a driver who refused to stay for hours with a disabled vehicle in freezing weather.

Republicans countered by touting Gorsuch’s academic and professional credentials; his clerkships with two Supreme Court justices, Anthony Kennedy and Byron White; his unanimous rating of well-qualified by the American Bar Association; and his record of deciding with the majority in 99 percent of the cases he heard.

Gorsuch appeared poised to sail through the Senate as Democrats earlier this year were more focused on Trump’s more controversial Cabinet appointees, such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Democrats had failed to dig up any seriously damaging writings, statements or indiscretions, and even Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most liberal justice on the high court, said Gorsuch was “very easy to get along with.”

The lack of strong early resistance angered liberal groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.Org and the Services Employee International Union, which wrote a stern letter to Democratic senators early last month exhorting them to “do better.” The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group backing Gorsuch, countered pressure from the left by launching a $10 million advertising campaign to bolster his nomination. The National Rifle Association also poured in $1 million to help Gorsuch.

It became apparent Monday,  when several Democrats who were on the fence came out against his nomination, that Gorsuch would not win confirmation unless Republicans moved to eliminate the filibuster. By Monday evening, 42 Democrats and one Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), had announced they would block the final vote. McConnell announced the next day that he had the votes to trigger the nuclear option. 

Vice President Pence presided over the vote. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who recently underwent back surgery, missed it.

– Updated at 12:47 p.m.

Senate goes ‘nuclear’ to advance Trump Supreme Court pick


The Senate voted Thursday to move forward with Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination after Republicans took a historic step that lowers the vote threshold for high court nominees to a simple majority.  Senators voted 55-45 to end debate on Gorsuch’s nomination, setting up a final confirmation vote for Friday. Thanks to a procedural move that changed Senate rules earlier Thursday, a simple majority was needed to move forward.

Democrats had successfully blocked Gorsuch’s nomination from getting 60 votes earlier, prompting Republicans to employ the “nuclear option,” which effectively ends filibusters for all Supreme Court nominees. Democrats tried to delay the rule change vote by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans stayed unified.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) voted with Republicans to allow President Trump’s pick to move forward.

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Republicans defended the party-line vote on the nuclear option, saying Democrats were to blame for blocking Gorsuch, who they believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that Democrats should “come to their senses.” 

“The truth of the matter is that throughout this process, the minority led by their leader has been desperately searching for a justification for their preplanned filibuster,” he said ahead of Thursday’s votes.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added that the current stalemate was part of a decades-long Democratic effort to “politicize the courts and the confirmation process.” 

“The opposition to this particular nominee is more about the man that nominated him and the party he represents than the nominee himself,” he said. 

Republicans hinted for weeks that Trump’s nominee would be confirmed one way or another. McConnell confirmed during a leadership press conference that he had the votes to go nuclear if needed. Republicans appeared resigned to the tactics, arguing if Democrats won’t support Gorsuch — who received the American Bar Association’s highest rating — they won’t allow any GOP nominee to join the Supreme Court.

But Democrats made a last-minute pledge for Republicans to back down and change the nominee, an argument that never gained traction with GOP senators.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “When a nominee doesn’t get enough votes for confirmation the answer is not to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) during an eleventh-hour press conference blasted the GOP tactics, saying it “is just wrong to pack the court through this stolen seat.” 

“That’s why it’s so important that we still in the few hours that we have left hopefully stop this really crime against the Constitution,” he said. 

Progressives groups also stepped up their attacks heading into Thursday’s vote, warning that Republicans will be to blame for going “nuclear.”  The People’s Defense — a coalition of roughly a dozen progressive groups led by NARAL Pro-Choice America — released a digital ad campaign targeting Republicans in Arizona, Alaska, Maine, Nevada and South Carolina, warning them that “history is watching.”

Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Dean Heller (Nev.), among those being targeted by outside groups, are Republicans’ two most vulnerable incumbents. Schumer echoed that from the Senate floor on Thursday, saying that Republicans “had other choices. They’ve chosen this one.” 

“The responsibility for changing the rules will fall on Republicans and Leader McConnell’s shoulders,” he said. 

Democrats remain deeply bitter of Republicans treatment of Merrick Garland, whom former President Barack Obama’s nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. GOP leaders refused to give Garland a hearing or a vote. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued that the current stalemate over the Supreme Court dates back Scalia’s death and “what we’re facing today is the fallout.” 

But the hardball tactics drew skepticism from both Republican and Democratic senators, who held around-the-clock negotiations to try to prevent the rule change but ultimately failed.

Told that by a reporter that some people think the Senate will function better without the filibuster, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fired back: “Whoever said that is a stupid idiot.” 

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also warned that without the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster, Trump might easily appoint Attorney General Jeff Sessions or EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to the Supreme Court in the future.

“Partisanship should give way to patriotism,” said Bennet, who backed ending debate on Gorsuch’s nomination earlier Thursday but voted against it in the second vote. “If we go down this road we will undermine the minorities ability to check this administration and all those who follow.”

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