It’s been more than 400 days since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left his seat vacant. With Republicans having blocked a vote on then-President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and with Senate Democrats now making plans to filibuster President Trump's nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, it could take even longer to replace Scalia.
It’s not unheard of for a justice’s seat to remain empty for a considerable amount of time. Pew Research Center did the math and found that the longest gap was 841 days, in the mid-1840s, from the time of Henry Baldwin's death to his replacement Robert Grier's confirmation.
But the last time in recent history that a vacancy's duration in this range occurred was after Abe Fortas resigned in 1969. It took 391 days to fill that seat, an interval that ended in 1970 when Harry Blackmun – the justice who authored the court's landmark opinion in Roe vs. Wade – was confirmed. Blackmun was President Nixon’s third pick to fill that seat.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrats to say they will vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch and not support the effort to filibuster his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Their announcements came as no surprise. Both are centrists who have to run for reelection next year in states that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
"After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court," Manchin said. "I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man.... I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice."
The invitation comes after the New York Times reported that two White House officials helped Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, view information on intelligence collections concerning President Trump's associates. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
The White House has invited House and Senate intelligence committee chairs to review documents that it says were recently discovered by national security staff that could help determine whether information gathered about American citizens was mishandled.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer would not say whether these are the same documents that Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who chairs the House intelligence committee, said he reviewed last week.
Nunes has refused to identify his sources. Some saw his disclosure as an attempt to give credence to President Trump's widely refuted claim that President Obama had ordered wiretaps on his phone during the campaign. Nunes said the material he reviewed suggested that intelligence agencies had incidentally collected information about Trump or his associates. He has declined to be more specific or share the information with the committee.
The FBI is investigating possible coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russian authorities during the 2016 election. The U.S. intelligence community has said it is confident that the Russian government directed hacking operations and “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Take a look at how some high-profile people have been drawn into the investigation. See the graphic »
Despite her low profile, Walsh has become a key player in the administration's inner circle and has grown close to the president in recent months. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
A former top Republican National Committee official and ally of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus will depart her West Wing post in the first significant shake-up of President Trump's senior staff.
Politico first reported that Katie Walsh, the deputy White House chief of staff, will leave to take on an advisory position with political groups that were formed to support the president's agenda from the outside.
Walsh had served as chief of staff at the RNC when Priebus was party chair. At the White House, she served in a similar capacity under Priebus, tasked with overseeing the senior staff and the scheduling operation.
Calling the accusations “lies,” Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday denied that Moscow meddled in last year’s U.S. elections.
"Read my lips, no," Putin said during a panel moderated by CNBC, according to a report on the news agency’s website.
"All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies,” the Russian president said. “All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside.
The 30-member-plus bloc of deficit hawks and right-flank conservatives had appeared for a while to be pushed aside by the movement that swept President Trump into office. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan commiserated with President Trump Thursday after the president launched a Twitter assault on the group of rebellious Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus.
"I understand the frustration, I share the frustration,” Ryan told reporters Thursday, when asked to respond to Trump's threat to campaign against fellow Republicans.
Freedom Caucus members, who back limited government and have defined themselves in opposition to the Washington establishment, have been a major headache for GOP leaders. Ever since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, conservative refusal to back key bills to fund government agencies has forced GOP leaders to negotiate with Democrats for the votes they need.
The measure faced opposition from two Republican women, forcing a 50-50 tie. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
Republicans needed Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote Thursday in the Senate to advance legislation that rolls back rules preventing states from withholding certain federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
With opposition from two Republican women, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republicans did not have enough votes with their slim 52-seat majority to advance the bill.
Pence, a longtime opponent of abortion, arrived to cast the vote breaking the 50-50 tie — and will be expected to do so later Thursday on final passage.
A Senate committee on Thursday narrowly approved R. Alexander Acosta to be Labor secretary, moving to fill one of President Trump’s few remaining vacant Cabinet posts.
The nomination of Acosta, a law school dean and former Justice Department official, was approved by a 12-11 vote by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. All of the panel’s Republicans supported the nomination; all of the Democrats were opposed.
If confirmed in a full Senate vote, which is expected soon, Acosta will be the only Latino in Trump’s Cabinet. A date for the final vote hasn’t been set.