Majority hasn’t ruled in the Senate for a long time. On almost everything, 60 votes are required to invoke what is called cloture, the process of closing the debate on bill or appointment so that it can come to a vote. Without 60 votes on cloture, a nominee isn’t given a vote on confirmation at all. This has become known as a filibuster.
The word filibuster is actually a misnomer here, but for the sake of argument we’ll use it as it’s become known. It used to be that a member of the Senate had to prevent the debate from moving forward by talking for hours on end. Now they just use procedure to say that debate is effectively suspended indefinitely.
Democrats killed the filibuster on almost all appointments, save the Supreme Court, in a radical move in 2013. Now they’ve decided to prevent an up-or-down vote for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who is eminently qualified.
The only option for Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is to finish eliminating the filibuster, and that’s what it looks like he will do. The other “option”, scuttling an eminently qualified nominee to placate an irate minority, would be insanity.
A lot of ink will be spilled on paper to describe the “nuking” of the filibuster as a Republican power play. It’s not — it’s the forced end result of two power plays from Democrats, 4 years ago and today. If Harry Reid and members of the current leadership, including Chuck Schumer, wanted to uphold the traditional 60-vote threshold, they had that power. They chose instead to ram through a number of Obama nominees despite deep opposition.
Don’t accuse McConnell of the nuclear option. The filibuster is already effectively dead.