By Jordain Carney - 04-04-17 20:24 PM EDT
Sen. Jeff Merkley is holding the Senate floor in protest of Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination.
The Oregon Democrat, whose speech was already in its second hour, was expected to "hold the floor and refuse to yield for as long as he is able to continue speaking," according to his office.
Merkley, who is a member of Democratic leadership, blasted Senate Republicans on Tuesday night, accusing of them trying to choke off debate over Gorsuch's nomination.
"Here we are in the first day just hours into debate and the majority leader said, 'Enough. We don't want to hear any more about this topic. We're going to shut down debate,'" Merkley said, referring to Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) decision to file cloture earlier Tuesday.
Merkley started speaking shortly before 7 p.m. and showed no signs of slowing down.
His hours-long speech isn't expected to impact the Senate's consideration of Trump's nominee, with an initial vote expected for Thursday morning.
The liberal senator has been a vocal opponent of Gorsuch's nomination, predicting as early as late January that his party would filibuster Trump's pick.
He argued on Tuesday night that by refusing to give a hearing or vote for former President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, Republicans are now trying to fill a "stolen seat."
"Wouldn't it have been incredible if President Trump's nominee, knowing the constitutional responsibility for the Senate to act, knowing that the ... seat had been stolen from a previous president ... had stood up and said, 'I will not participate in this crime against the Constitution,' and decline the nomination?" Merkley hypothesized from the Senate floor.
Merkley's speech comes as the Senate formally kicked off debate on Gorsuch's nomination on Tuesday.
In an an email sent out Tuesday night, Merkley's campaign team added that his speech was aimed at pressuring GOP leadership "to pull Gorsuch's nomination."
There is no sign that Republicans will reverse course on Gorsuch.
With 44 senators opposing Gorsuch's nomination, Senate Republicans are expected to vote on Thursday to change the Senate's rules so he can be confirmed by a simple majority.