By Jordain Carney - 04-04-17 10:55 AM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday sent a warning shot to Democrats, saying the "future of the Senate" hangs in the balance if they filibuster Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination.
"It should be unsettling to everyone that our colleagues across the aisle have brought the Senate to this new low," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor.
McConnell added Democrats could still "do the right thing," saying that "history will be watching and the future of the Senate will hang on their choice."
McConnell will file cloture on Gorsuch's nomination later Tuesday, setting up a showdown on Thursday.
With 43 Democrats opposed to his nomination, the president's nominee won't be able to overcome a Democratic filibuster unless three senators flip their position.
Republican senators appear resigned to going "nuclear" and changing the rules so Supreme Court nominees can be cleared through the Senate with only a simple majority.
McConnell added on Tuesday that "there has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee - never - in the history of our country."
"Democrats are being pushed by far-left interest groups into doing something detrimental to this body and for our country," he said. "They seem determined to head into the abyss and taking the country with them."
Senators in both parties filibustered Justice Abe Fortas's nomination to be chief justice in 1968, and President Lyndon Johnson withdrew his nomination amid a slate of ethical concerns.
Democrats are also quick to point to McConnell's refusal to give former President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote.
"What the majority leader did to Merrick Garland by denying him even a hearing or a vote is even worse than a filibuster," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after McConnell spoke.
Schumer added that McConnell's accusation that Democrats would be responsible for the first partisan filibuster on the Supreme Court "belies the facts, belies the history, belies the basic truth."
The New York Democrat suggested that Republicans could avoid changing the rules and work with Democrats to come up with a nominee that would be able to overcome a 60-vote threshold, a move that appears unlikely to happen.
"No one is making our Republican colleagues change the rules," Schumer said. "No one is forcing Senator McConnell to change the rules. He's doing it at his own volition."