Unless cooler heads prevail, Senate Democrats are likely to block the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court this week with a filibuster, forcing Mitch McConnell to either invoke the “nuclear option” or leave Gorsuch unconfirmed indefinitely. McConnell has already promised to push Judge Gorsuch through by Friday, though, even if means lowering the vote threshold for a Supreme Court nominee.
Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed reluctance about the upcoming explosion, but both sides blame the other. Democrats say that McConnell was out of line last year when he refused to bring Merrick Garland up for a vote, and they say President Trump, being under FBI investigation, is unfit to name a Supreme Court nominee. The Republicans say the Democrats are filibustering a mainstream, qualified judge, something nearly unprecedented in the history of the Senate.
For selfish reasons, obviously, we want to see Democrats drop their partisan opposition and confirm Gorsuch to the bench. It would be good for the Senate, good for the country, good for the integrity of the Supreme Court, and good for the “unity” everyone always claims to seek.
But they should also consider the political downside of mounting this futile filibuster. One, they are doing something that no one – not even their own leadership – is willing to pretend will actually work. They know they’re not keeping Gorsuch off the court, so this is solely a legislative temper tantrum designed to please voters and donors. Which it will.
But by forcing McConnell to invoke the nuclear option, the Democrats will lose all power to stop the next Trump nomination. That will give Republicans license to pick whomever they like to fill the next seat, and that seat may currently belong to one of the liberal judges. They don’t have to pick someone out of the so-called “mainstream”; Trump can nominate Judge Jeanine Pirro if he feels moved to do so. Dems won’t be able to do squat.
The funny thing is, they seem to understand the consequences of their actions.
“I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill on Friday.
She said this, of course, as she announced her intention to join the filibuster.
Democrats have been whining about the death of bipartisanship for years; here’s a perfect opportunity for them to put their money where their mouths are.
Do they dare?