On Thursday, April 6, Senate Republicans changed the tide in a governing structure that has been around since the American Constitution was framed. In an unprecedented move led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 52 Republicans agreed to change a rule that formerly required 60 Senate votes to advance a high court nominee to one that now needs only a simple majority decision. With this new standard, and a Senate that is more than 50% Republican, it is now impossible for Democrats to oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court.

McConnell said he initiated the move to "restore norms" and get past the Democratic filibuster, according to a Fox News Report.

The nuclear option has only been used once before

The "Nuclear Option," intended as an analogy to the extreme circumstances in which nuclear bombs are deployed in warfare, has only been used once before, according to reports. That time was four years ago, in 2013, when majority Democrats invoked it to eliminate Republican filibusters blocking nominations to the executive branch and preventing judicial appointments to federal courts.

The altered rule, however, didn't include changing the way Supreme Court appointments were carried out. For three years afterward, Supreme Court nominees continued to have to be accepted by at least 60% of senators, which effectively prevented the dominant Senate party from controlling the court system. In earlier votes this year, however, reports indicate that only 4 Democrats crossed party lines to side with Republicans in the vote for Gorsuch's confirmation- stopping them just shy of 60%.

By triggering the nuclear option today, all future Supreme Court picks can now be decided by a simple majority- meaning whoever controls the Senate will also control the courts.

The filibuster was the Democrats only option

The Democratic filibuster was a decisive move spearheaded by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. Filibusters have been used in the past to delay inevitable appointments by orchestrating unnecessary debates and banter.

Since the Senate has clearly defined rules allowing "full debate" on a topic requiring a vote, the Senate minority can theoretically obstruct a decision that has majority support for as long as it wants. These situations can turn contentious quickly, as both sides are essentially at odds with each other. One such example of this year's Democratic filibuster in action was Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon's recent 15-hour speech opposing Judge Neil Gorsuch's appointment. While the speech did nothing to stop the inevitability of the situation, it slowed down the process considerably.

Republicans are thrilled to be past Democratic opposition

By invoking the nuclear option, Mitch McConnell and his Republicans have sidestepped any more Democratic opposition. Sources say the Kentucky Republican was quite pleased with the victory, even going so far as to give high fives to party members as he took his seat. Claiming 52 of the 100 Senate seats, Republicans will now have no problem confirming Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court in a vote scheduled for Friday. In an interview with CNN earlier today, an unnamed Democratic aide dejectedly told correspondents that today's events hurt "both parties in the long term because it hurts the institution." Reports claim representatives from both sides had been working to find a compromise, with Republican Susan Collins of Maine even mentioning she "worked all weekend and we just couldn't get here." The dejected aide called what happened today "a damn shame." Surely the 46 Senate Democrats echo the same sentiment.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!