Senate Democrats on Thursday vowed to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, signaling an imminent partisan showdown over the nominee’s fate and the future of century-old rules in the chamber.
As committee hearings on Judge Gorsuch concluded on Thursday, it appeared increasingly likely that Republicans hoping to elevate President Trump’s choice for the court would resort to replacing longstanding rules with a simple majority vote on his confirmation.
While a parade of witnesses addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee, trading dueling views of Judge Gorsuch, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, went to the Senate floor and announced that he would try to lead Democrats in blocking an up-or-down vote on Judge Gorsuch. The Senate’s “cloture” rule requires a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome such a filibuster.
“After careful deliberation I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Schumer said, citing concerns over Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and his degree of independence, adding, “My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”
Judge Gorsuch must earn the support of at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster — a threshold he is not on track to meet, at least so far, according to interviews and internal party discussions.
The ball will now be in Mitch the Turtle's court as Schumer has called his bluff.
If Democrats band together, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has threatened to pursue the so-called nuclear option eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court selections. Mr. Trump has urged Mr. McConnell to take that step if necessary.
Some Republicans have expressed reservations about changing the rules, but Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Thursday that he would relent if it meant seating Judge Gorsuch. “Whatever it takes to get him on the court, I will do,” Mr. Graham told “The Mike Gallagher Show” radio program.
Mr. McConnell has said he wants the Senate to confirm Judge Gorsuch to fill the vacancy, which was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago, before departing for a scheduled recess on April 7. Last year, Mr. McConnell led his party in refusing to consider President Obama’s choice for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland, during a presidential election campaign.
On Thursday, Mr. McConnell accused Democrats of engaging in “obstructionist tactics” to block a well-qualified nominee.
“Despite the judge’s outstanding performance, his exceptional background, and the extensive support he’s received from people of all political leanings, we know that some Senate Democrats will continue trying to come up with any reason to delay the confirmation process,” Mr. McConnell said of Judge Gorsuch.
So we'll see if the Senate is ready to kill the filibuster for a Supreme Court nominee. The obvious argument here is that if Democrats refuse to use it, there's no point in having it anyway, so make the GOP do the work of getting rid of it. Paul Waldman at the Washington Post agrees with the tactic
even if Mitch will get Gorsuch nominated anyway.
A filibuster, on the other hand, is a way of raising the stakes of the nomination. If Democrats filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will hold a vote to change Senate rules to disallow filibusters on Supreme Court nominations, and Gorsuch will get confirmed — but not until after the controversy has been elevated into a more dramatic confrontation. (This would be even more dramatic if the Democrats mount an old-fashioned “talking filibuster” where they stop all other Senate business to make an extended case against Gorsuch.)
So why filibuster if the end result will be the same? The reason is that these are truly extraordinary circumstances. The Republicans’ refusal to allow Merrick Garland to get even a hearing to fill this seat was nothing short of a crime against democracy, a twisting of democratic norms beyond all recognition. Garland should be in this seat, and Democrats should go as far as they possibly can to avoid giving even a shred of validation to the way Republicans stole it.
There’s also an important political goal that can be served by elevating this controversy, even if Gorsuch can’t be stopped. Democrats in Congress have almost no institutional power at the moment, and the only way they’re going to get some of that power is if 2018 is a wave election. A wave election happens when one side’s voters are angry and motivated. Right now, Democratic voters are definitely angry and motivated, and it’s the job of Democrats in Congress to keep showing those voters what they ought to be angry about — and that their representatives are fighting as hard as they possibly can.
So yes, filibustering Gorsuch is the right thing to do, even if it won’t accomplish the short-term goal of stopping his nomination. There’s a lot more at stake.
If you're going to lose (and let's be honest here, Democrats will not be able to stop Gorsuch being confirmed in the end) at least have the balls to go down swinging. At least there's a long shot that Democratic delays coupled with the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian collusion might be able to stop Gorsuch, even if that chance is 0.001% or whatever.
It's a flat zero if they don't filibuster, which coincidentally is the respect I'd have for Schumer if he didn't at least try to stop the obviously arch-conservative Gorsuch here. It's not that I expect this to create too much additional momentum for the Dems, but it would bring everything to a screeching halt if they didn't use the filibuster here.
So yeah, cue up the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic, and let the band play on.