posted at 1:21 pm on March 23, 2017 by John Sexton
“My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech today. And with that, Democrats have officially decided to give their base the fight it wants, a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch.
“Judge Gorsuch was unable to convince me that he’d be an independent check on a president who has shown almost no restraint from executive overreach,” Schumer said. He added that Gorsuch appeared to have a “deep-seated conservative ideology.”
And that’s really all this is about. Democrats barely laid a glove on Gorsuch during hours of testimony and even Senator Elizabeth Warren has written that he is “charming and intelligent” and has an “impressive legal pedigree.” But Democrats want him stopped because he is a conservative and, more specifically, because he appears to be pro-life.
Democrats have plenty of voices in their party demanding outright resistance to anything President Trump proposes, but there is also another gambit that could explain this move. Yesterday, Politico reported some Democrats have been working on a plan to preserve the filibuster for the next vacancy:
The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term. The next high court opening could alter the balance of the court, and some Democrats privately argue that fight will be far more consequential than the current one.
If Democrats move ahead with the plan — it’s still in the early discussion phase — it would require buy-in from some Republicans, but not necessarily Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or his top deputies. At least three rank-and-file GOP members would have to pledge not to vote to unilaterally change the Senate rules through a majority-only vote later in Trump’s term — the so-called nuclear option.
Obviously, this bargain doesn’t work unless the GOP believes Gorsuch’s nomination is in danger. Otherwise, there is no reason for Republicans to make a deal at all. So having Democrats announce a filibuster seems like a necessary first step in this plan.
Mitch McConnell should be working to stamp out any such deal. Gorsuch’s nomination is important but it’s the next appointment, the one that will likely replace a progressive on the court, that really matters in the long run. Republicans would be crazy to cede any leverage in that future fight for an easier nomination now. The left has become the party of obstructionism and deserves to lose this battle. The worst thing the GOP could do is reward their behavior with concessions.