Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley took to the floor of the chamber for more than 15 hours Tuesday and Wednesday to protest President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
The Democrat had promised to speak “for as long I am able” as the clock ticked down toward the Washington Easter recess at the end of the week. His point was that Gorsuch should not be considered until the investigation into alleged ties between Trump and Russia has been completed.
The former triathlete began at approximately 6:45 p.m. ET Tuesday and had to yield the floor at about 10:15 a.m. ET Wednesday. The first thing he did was use the restroom. Then, he delivered bagels to his staff.
"When we look how it’s going to reverberate for decades to come, it’s just really bad news for the Senate and it’s terrible news for the court," a visibly exhausted Merkley told reporters.
The record speaking time in the Senate is held by Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina senator who talked for over 24 hours in protest of civil rights legislation in 1957.
Merkley highlighted Republicans’ desire to confirm Gorsuch and their opposition last year to President Barack Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, saying the SCOTUS seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia had been “stolen” by the GOP.
The speech didn't delay the debate or votes.
Speaking next to a board featuring the words "We the People" from the Constitution, he said: "I plan to keep speaking for quite a while longer, as long as I'm able.”
Gorsuch is especially unpopular with both of Oregon's senators because of his views on assisted suicide laws, according to The Oregonian which reported the senator's move in a live blog.
Before Merkley began speaking, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted Gorsuch would be confirmed this week.
He said Republicans have enough votes for the so-called “nuclear option” of permanently changing rules that require the support of 60 senators. Such a change would impact future Supreme Court nominees and reduce the influence of the minority party.
Lawmakers were preparing to leave Washington for Easter recess at the end of the week. Despite many expressing concern about how the fight could forever change the Senate and the nation's highest court, members of both parties have remained firm in their respective partisan corners.
Republicans say that it's up to Democrats to stand down and allow Gorsuch to pass. They blame Democrats for ratcheting up a confirmation battle over a jurist that they say is well within the mainstream.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, however, says that McConnell has a choice and can ask President Donald Trump to send a new nominee.
"Both sides I know are pointing fingers at the other in this debate — saying that the other side started it. We did not even get our nominee, when Sen. McConnell broke 230 years of Senate precedent, didn't even allow Judge Garland a hearing or a vote," Schumer said Tuesday.