Gorsuch: Should Democrats filibuster?
“To filibuster or not to filibuster?” That’s the question puzzling Senate Democrats now that President Donald Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, said Will Rahn in CBSNews.com. With Republicans holding a 52-48 seat majority, Democrats can’t stop Gorsuch’s eventual confirmation. But if they filibuster to block a vote on the nomination, Republicans will very probably turn to the “nuclear option”: changing the Senate rules to eliminate filibusters of Supreme Court nominees, so that the GOP could ram Gorsuch’s nomination through with a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. “Blocking Gorsuch would likely be just a symbolic gesture,” said Jason Sattler in USA Today. But Republicans stole this Supreme Court seat by refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama’s moderate nominee, Merrick Garland, for 10 months. Democrats should make them pay a price for “pulling off the heist of the century.”
This “stolen seat” claim is a “myth,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Back in 2007, Sen. Chuck Schumer proclaimed that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee during President Bush’s final year. Besides, Democrats themselves threatened to nuke the Supreme Court filibuster just last year, when they expected to win both the presidency and the Senate. Given that Gorsuch is a respected mainstream conservative filling a conservative justice’s seat, said Jim Newell in Slate.com, it would be strategically foolish for Democrats to waste the filibuster now. They should save it in case one of the liberal seats opens during this presidency, as is likely; Trump could then tip the court 6-3 in conservatives’ favor for decades. At that point, a Democratic filibuster “would be more widely perceived as reasonable: an extraordinary response to an extraordinary action.”
The Democrats can’t win no matter what they do, said John Cassidy in The New Yorker. But they can still score some points, and energize their liberal base ahead of the 2018 midterms, if they use Gorsuch’s hearings to ask embarrassing questions. To highlight Trump’s “authoritarianism,” Senators should ask the nominee what he thinks courts should do if a president defies their orders, and whether he thinks the Emoluments Clause prohibits a president from accepting foreign payments. “Losing battles are sometimes worth waging, especially if they encourage your side and cause lasting damage to the enemy.”