By electing to filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senate Democrats may have inadvertently made the jobs of their Republican counterparts a lot easier.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had made it clear that Gorsuch was going to be confirmed to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, one way or the other. By that he meant he was willing to change the rules of the Senate so it was no longer necessary to have 60 votes for “cloture,” the cutoff of debate so the nomination can proceed to a vote.
The filibuster, a Senate tradition dramatically portrayed in the classic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” is not in the Constitution. It’s made possible by the rules of the Senate, which can be changed by a majority vote in the Senate itself.
That’s exactly what happened in 2013, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid grew tired of Republicans holding up President Obama’s nominees. Reid pushed through a change in the Senate’s rules to prevent filibusters of nominations for administration jobs and for federal judges — except nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Though it received far less media attention then.
This left the now-minority party with the option of filibustering the Gorsuch nomination, which Minority Leader Chuck Schumer chose to do despite McConnell’s vow to deploy the “nuclear option,” changing the Senate’s rules to allow the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee to proceed with 51 votes instead of 60.
After the change in the rules, Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45. If there is another vacancy on the court during Trump’s presidency, 51 votes will be enough to confirm his nominee regardless of the views of the minority party.
Democrats would have avoided that outcome simply by agreeing to a vote on the Gorsuch nomination. They could have preserved their clout for a fight over the potential successor to one of the court’s liberal justices. Why didn’t they?
The sad and scary answer may be that the far-left of the Democratic Party has gained more power and will target any Democrat who does not oppose President Trump fervently enough. There’s a risk that Democrats seen as insufficiently committed to opposing the administration will face well-funded primary challengers from within their own party.
Democrats are illustrating a shift leftward as Republicans shift rightward. The two major political parties prefer divisions, demonization and conflict, leaving little room for compromise and collaboration.
With the filibuster though, Democrats may have hurt themselves and their future. There’s nothing to prevent this dynamic from repeating itself when bills on health care or tax reform reach the Senate floor. McConnell could now change the Senate’s rules to ban the filibuster altogether. House Speaker Paul Ryan will find it much easier to accommodate the most conservative members of his caucus when he doesn’t have to worry about finding 60 votes in the Senate for whatever they finally pass.
But Democrats will find it harder to negotiate for their priorities after they’ve surrendered their most powerful weapon. That’s a heavy price to pay for political posturing.
Read more about Democrats pay big price with ‘nuclear option’ This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service
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