FoxNews.com (4/5/17) - Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley took to the Senate floor just before 7 p.m. ET Tuesday vowing to talk "as long as I'm able" to protest Republicans' 2016 blockade of President Barack Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland -- in the latest disruption on the road to a vote for President Trump's nominee.
Merkley’s staff streamed the video of him on the Senate floor. So far, the Democratic senator has spoken for over 15 hours.
"Make no mistake: this is a stolen seat — & if this theft is completed, it will undermine the integrity of the court for decades," Merkley tweeted as he began.
His endurance was praised by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who tweeted, "Go, @SenJeffMerkley, Go! #StopGorsuch #HoldTheFloor."
Merkley's speech wasn't expected to delay Wednesday's debate on Trump's nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch or votes expected Thursday and Friday -- when Republicans are increasingly likely to use the so-called "nuclear option" to push through a Democratic filibuster.
Senators of both parties bemoaned the further erosion of their traditions of bipartisanship and consensus. Some were already predicting that they would end up eliminating the 60-vote requirement for legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell committed Tuesday that would not happen under his watch.
He drew a distinction between legislation being filibustered and the filibuster being used against nominees, something that is a more recent development.
Gorsuch now counts 55 supporters in the Senate: the 52 Republicans, along with three moderate Democrats from states Trump won last November — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
A fourth Senate Democrat, Michael Bennet from Gorsuch's home state of Colorado, has said he will not join in the filibuster against Gorsuch but has not said how he will vote on final passage.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News' "The First 100 Days" Tuesday that the GOP's use of the so-called "nuclear option" to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch is their response to the Democrats' "breaking the rules of the Senate" in 2013.
"For 230 years, up or down, simple majority [required] for Supreme Court, Cabinet, everything until [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer invented this, so it’s a fairly recent thing to filibuster executive branch appointments," McConnell told host Dana Perino. "All we’ll do faced with this filibuster is even that up so the Supreme Court confirmation process is dealt with just like it was throughout the history of the country."
Gorsuch, 49, is a 10-year veteran of a federal appeals court in Denver, where he's compiled a highly conservative record that's led Democrats to complain he sides with corporations without regards to the humanity of the plaintiffs before him.
Merkley also took issue with the Republican claim that Supreme Court justices should not be confirmed during an election year, and listed several judges in the past that were appointed during those timeframes, OregonLive.com reported.
"Until the FBI and Congress complete #Russia investigation, confirming @realDonaldTrump lifetime appointment to #SCOTUS is premature," Merkley tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report