Democrats Must Make A Deal On Neil Gorsuch Nomination To Save Filibuster
Senate Democrats are currently in a lose-lose position. While the filibuster of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court is noble, it is likely a futile effort to think they can keep Gorsuch off the bench.
Traditionally, a Supreme Court appointee has needed 60 votes to make his/her way to the bench. This threshold forces the parties to come together and compromise on an appointee rather than simply pushing through whatever the majority party is feeling at the time.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ready to throw that tradition out the window and invoke the so-called “nuclear option” that would reduce the threshold of confirmation from 60 to 51. This option would effectively end any and all input from the minority party on Supreme Court nominees moving forward, kill the filibuster, and leave the country at the whim of the majority.
Donald Trump has told McConnell to just go ahead and do it, but he’s not exactly a planner. The option is unpopular even among Republicans like Senator John McCain, but he has made clear he will vote for it anyway.
“I find myself torn between protecting the traditions and practices of the Senate and the importance of having a full complement of justices on the Supreme Court,” McCain said, per the Huffington Post. “I’m left with no choice. I will vote to change the rules an allow Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority.”
McCain, of course, confronts his own hypocrisy with this statement as he had no objection to the unprecedented treatment of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who was never even granted a hearing, and also vowed not to allow Hillary Clinton a SCOTUS nominee should she win the election.
So, the issue here is do the Republicans look long-term and decide to stick with what’s best for the country and potentially beneficial to them down the road or take the road of instant gratification and blow the whole thing up?
Without any cooperation from Democrats, McConnell will go nuclear. He has made that perfectly clear and, given the treatment Judge Garland received, it would be foolish to think McConnell is bluffing.
This is where the Democrats’ liberal base is going to get upset, but they’ll just have to deal with it; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer needs to make a deal with McConnell and the Republicans.
As it stands, the biggest issue Democrats have with Gorsuch isn’t even so much his past rulings — which are indeed worrisome — but more so that his appointment takes place while the sitting President is under an FBI investigation that could lead to charges of treason if allegations prove true.
Therefore, Schumer needs to find a way to put the nomination on hold while the investigation proceeds, but also keep the filibuster in place. The only way to do this is tell McConnell that if he puts off a vote on Gorsuch until after the investigation is concluded, and Trump is cleared, Democrats will support Gorsuch and the filibuster remains intact.
However, if Trump is impeached and removed, Republicans agree Gorsuch’s nomination is tainted and vote him down or allow him to remove himself from consideration.
How likely McConnell is to even listen to such a deal depends on how much he actually wants to save the filibuster for the future and whether or not he believes Trump may have done something wrong.
Despite his recent rhetoric, McConnel has made impassioned cases to save the filibuster in the past. Of course, that was all the way back in 2013 when the Republicans were the minority in the Senate, so it’s tough to tell how much the practice really means to him.
If McConnell feels even a shred of responsibility to keep the filibuster, then his decision could come down to how he feels about Trump’s potential guilt. If he believes Trump may have colluded with Russia, he might want to get Gorsuch through as quickly as possible before any connection to Trump becomes forever tainted. If he truly believes Trump is innocent, he just might be willing to wait.
Either way, this entire process will leave neither side unscathed. For Democrats, they could see their voice as a minority taken from them and a right-wing judge placed on the bench for the next 40 years. For Republicans, they could set themselves up to be judged harshly for eliminating the filibuster, especially when the time comes they find themselves in the minority once again.
The proposed deal isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it could allow both parties to save face. The more extreme sects of the respective bases won’t be happy, but the average American, even partisans, want to see compromise. This deal would show a willingness for compromise while allowing the Senate to keep its coveted status as the senior chamber of congress.
But don’t hold your breath.
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