April 3 (UPI) -- Senate Democrats have enough votes for a filibuster to block Neil Gorscuh's Supreme Court nomination, forcing the Republicans to decide whether to counter with the "nuclear option."
Earlier Monday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., announced during the committee meeting he will oppose the pick, becoming the 41st Democrat to support the filibuster.
The Republicans, with 48 votes, need 60 votes to prevent the filibuster. So far four Democrats have said they will back the 49-year-old appellate judge -- Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Michael Bennet of Colorado. All but Bennet, who resides in the same state as Gorsuch, are up for re-election in 2018.
"Throughout this process, I have kept an open mind ... I have decided that I will not support Judge Gorsuch's nomination," Coons said in an announcement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Gorsuch's nomination. "I am not ready to end debate on this issue. So I will be voting against cloture."
On Monday morning, three other Democrats said they would vote against the judge: Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Mark Warner of Virginia. Feinstein is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
The Republicans could vote to change the chamber's rules to cut off filibusters on Supreme Court nominations with a simple majority -- a procedure called the "nuclear option." In 2013, Democrats voted for changing the Senate's rules to allow confirmation of other presidential nominees, including Cabinet appointees, by a simple majority.
"Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. "The way in which that occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority."
He said on NBC: "How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee, never happened before in history, the whole history of the country."
McConnell said last week he wants to the Senate to vote by Friday before its two-week recess.
"If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said during the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting . "I hate that. I really, really do."
The nomination will fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13, 2016.
President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, an appellate judge, on March 16, 2016. But the nomination remained in limbo for 293 days without a hearing. His nomination expired Jan. 3 and many Democrats view any Trump nominee other than Garland a GOP "theft" of the high court seat.