Don't nuke the senate!
That would be a strategic mistake.
Senate Democrats invoked the "Nuclear Option" a couple of years ago when Republicans were actively using the filibuster rules to block Obama's judge appointments, but they stopped short of making the new rule apply to Supreme Court nominees. Had they held the majority in Obama's last year, there can be little doubt that they would have extended the filibuster ban to SCOTUS picks, but Republicans should not resort to the same tactics.
Not only would invoking the "Nuclear Option" set a precedent that would surely come back to haunt them in the future, but it would also jeopardize the filibuster in general, removing one of the few tools the minority has for forcing compromise. Which again is fine when your party is in the majority, but not so good When you find yourself in the minority.
There are ways for Republicans to win confirmation of Judge Gorsuch without resorting to the "Nuclear Option." Some of the experts at the Heritage Foundation wrote an excellent paper on the subject before Gorsuch was even nominated. They suggest using what is called Rule XIX to limit debate, thus limiting the duration of a filibuster. It's pretty straightforward, but even that is not likely to be necessary.
The purpose of the filibuster is to delay action to give time to whip votes, raise public awareness, and bring pressure to bear. In the current situation, the delay and attention works to the advantage of Republicans, not Democrats. Gorsuch is clearly qualified and widely respected, and he has a reputation for standing up to executive and bureaucratic overreach. He is very likely to side with the Court's "liberal" wing if Trump tries to accomplish too much with a pen and a phone.
By delaying, Democrats give more opportunity for the public to realize that they are simply being petulant. Public pressure will weigh on Democrat senators from "red" states who will be facing reelection next year, making them more likely to cross the aisle and support Gorsuch's confirmation.
Democrat leaders are making a big mistake going all out to block Gorsuch's confirmation. There might already be enough votes to overcome a filibuster, and if not, those votes will come soon enough. Republicans just need to move forward with confirmation hearings and a vote. If they really feel they don't have enough votes to overcome a filibuster, they can invoke Rule XIX and let the Democrats talk themselves out. But just moving forward will probably be enough.
Naturally, Democrats are comparing their obstructionism to Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. Garland was Obama's pick to fill the vacancy left after the Sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The comparison is valid, but only to a point. Republicans foolishly rushed to declare that they would reject any candidate Obama chose, just as Democrats foolishly vowed opposition to any Trump appointment, sight unseen. But unlike Republicans, who treated Garland respectfully, even while they refused to hold hearings on his confirmation, Democrats have launched scurrilous and baseless attacks on Gorsuch. These tactics are not painting Democrats in a favorable light.
Gorsuch's appointment does not shift the balance of the Court the way Merrick Garland's would have, but it can be argued that it does move the Court slightly to the "left." He can be expected to side more with the "liberal" wing of the Court in certain areas. Blocking a confirmation vote, and saying nasty, patently untrue things about the nominee, just makes the Democrats look petty and vindictive. That won't play well with the public at large, which in turn will turn up the heat and should motivate enough Democrat senators to break from their leadership and vote to bring the nomination to the floor.
Schumer has to oppose Gorsuch's confirmation, because he is accountable to the radical Democrat base. Individual senators--especially those from "conservative"-leaning states--have no such mandate. Their first obligation is to their own reelection and home-state voters, and many of those voters are tired of petty, partisan politics.
If Republicans push forward with confirmation hearings for Gorsuch, they will force the Democrats' hand, and should win a surprisingly easy victory. All of the Democrats can vote against Gorsuch in the final vote if they want to, because all it takes for Republicans to prevail is a simple majority--in the final vote.
Getting to that vote will require either running out their time with rule XIX, or 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Some Democrats can vote to end the filibuster, then vote against Gorsuch's confirmation--having their cake and eating it too--an easy out for those facing a potentially tough reelection campaign.
Going nuclear now would seriously diminish Republican credibility. They need to stick to the high ground, push forward with confirmation hearings, and bring public pressure to bear against the Democrats' weaker links. A quick call to your senators can help to reinforce that message.
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|Title Annotation:||THE KNOX UPDATE: From The Firearms Coalition|
|Date:||Apr 10, 2017|
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