The Senate is headed for a showdown this week. Republicans are looking to go home on recess following a victory after judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


President Donald Trump is facing some math problems. He needs to add up enough votes in the House to pass bills on health care and the budget. But he’s been fighting with many of the members he needs to support him. Now, in the Senate, the president does have a majority to approve his Supreme Court nominee this week. But a majority is not enough. And the question is whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will change the calculus of the Senate to prevent Democrats from blocking Judge Neil Gorsuch. Here’s McConnell speaking on Fox News Sunday.


MITCH MCCONNELL: Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed. The way in which that occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority. And I think during the course of the week, we’ll find out exactly how this will end. But it will end with his confirmation.

GREENE: And let’s talk about all this with NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro, who’s on the line. Domenico, good morning.


GREENE: So let’s start with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the court. Some are saying there could be a nuclear showdown this week. McConnell’s saying it’s in the hands of the Democrats. How does this all work?

MONTANARO: Yeah. And they keep calling this nuclear because they’re going to probably move toward eliminating the requirement to need 60 votes to advance a nominee for the Supreme Court if Democrats – if not enough Democrats get on board to support Gorsuch. And right now, it does not look like that’s going to happen. Just three Democrats have come forward. And McConnell has been dangling this “nuclear,” quote, unquote, “threat.”

And it really could be the week, if in 50 years from now we look back and see that the court has fundamentally changed, that this is the week where it did. Not only did the Senate fundamentally change and become more like the House, where you’d only need a majority rules instead of needing 60 votes. But then the kinds of nominees that you could have is the real risk potentially to the court at some point.

GREENE: Because you have this rule. There’s a filibuster. The Democrats could begin a filibuster. Republicans would need 60 votes to end it. And that’s always sort of been the way of the Senate to prevent, you know, really radical nominees or what some would view as radical nominees from being able to come through.

MONTANARO: Right. That’s the whole thing. I mean, this could mean more partisan picks. This started down that path in 2013, when Democratic now former majority leader Harry Reid from Nevada changed this because Barack Obama couldn’t get his judiciary nominees through because the Republicans had used the filibuster so often that he couldn’t get those picks through. If you think about this, a pick like Betsy DeVos, where so many Democrats were enraged by her getting – becoming education secretary…


MONTANARO: …She probably never would have gotten through if this rule were not eliminated.

GREENE: Well, it seems like everyone agrees this is not a good thing if this…