Editor's note: This story has been updated.
That is, the two senators from Texas joined their 50 fellow Republican colleagues in making the historically significant move to reduce the vote threshold that a U.S. Supreme Court nominee must secure for confirmation.
Senate Republicans changed a long-held rule that effectively meant 60 votes were needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. With 52 Republicans in the chamber, this change will allow for the easy passage of President Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, likely on Friday.
"The American people on November the 8th selected President Trump. President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch," Cornyn said in a statement. "And tomorrow we will confirm that nominee and deliver on that promise.”
Known as "the nuclear option," the move eliminated a senator's capacity to filibuster a Supreme Court nomination. Furthermore, it reflects how increased partisanship in the country, particularly around the issue of abortion, has resulted in the Senate peeling back arcane traditions that were created to build consensus within the chamber.
While the official confirmation vote requires only a simple majority, the Senate has to pass a motion to end debate that, until Thursday, relied on 60 votes, known as a supermajority. At times, the rule seemed counterintuitive to principles of democratic majority-rule, but within the chamber it was a sacred tradition that ensured bipartisan coalitions to move a nominee through.
Thursday's events were the result of years of obstruction and bad faith between both parties. The tension, however, reached a boiling point over the last year.
Senate Republicans enraged Democrats a year ago when they effectively held a vacant Supreme Court seat open for well over a year — denying President Obama his own nominee. Democrats then effectively retaliated this year by refusing to allow Gorsuch to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move onto the confirmation vote.
“We've been debating and discussing this nominee for a long time now, and the opponents of Judge Gorsuch have tried time and time again to raise objections to this outstanding nominee, a nomination that no one in the Senate opposed 10 years ago when he was confirmed to a position on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals," Cornyn said.
Senators will still be able to filibuster on legislative issues.