Today is a sad day for U.S. Senate procedure. The Democrats have clearly indicated they will not allow 60 votes to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch and as Sen. Coons elaborated he feels that much of it is bitterness over Merrick Garland not being confirmed last year.
I have always objected to filibustering executive office nominees since I believe the President deserves to have his team while he/she is in office. They are only there for duration of the administration. Harry Reid changed the rules to prevent any filibustering of executive nominees and for judges at levels below the Supreme Court. That use of the so-called “Nuclear Option” opened the door for changing the rules on Supreme Court nominees.
First, I would like any Democrat to tell me with a straight face that they believe that Harry Reid would have allowed a Republican nominee to proceed in the middle of a Presidential election if the roles had been reversed last year. Sen. Reid, as the Majority Leader, was as partisan as you can get and in my opinion cost Sen. Pryor (D-AR), Sen. Begich (D-AK) and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA) any chance of winning reelection in red states by stopping them from offering and voting on amendments that would help them politically. He did so because it would have put other Democrats in tough positions and so he stopped any consideration of these amendments.
This will now force the current Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to change the rules and confirm Judge Gorsuch with a simple majority vote. This will effectively end the use of the filibuster in the Senate on all issues. This is a negative in my opinion because it eliminates all the protections offered to the minority party on bad legislation. Just as I disagreed with passing HCA on a strictly partisan vote I don’t like any legislation passed without bipartisan support. Eliminating the use of the 60-vote rule will allow the majority party to do whatever they want without negotiating with the minority party.
I think it is evident that Judge Gorsuch has the qualifications for the Court and has the judicial temperament. The Democrats have focused on a single case and used this to say he would favor corporations over the little guy. What he has shown in the past is he will apply the rule of law, as he sees it, to each and every case. Sen. Grassley, in today’s committee vote, pointed out that when Justice Sonia Sotomayer was before the Senate Chuck Schumer commented that one of her qualities would be applying the rule of law even when it meant hurting the so-called little guy.
As I have said before I think the Democrats have made a major strategic mistake in forcing McConnell’s hand on this nominee. Gorsuch will not change the make up of the Court. Had they allowed Gorsuch to be confirmed with 60 votes it would have made it very difficult politically for McConnell to change the rules on the next nominee. Knowing that Justice Ginzburg is now 84 and Justice Breyer is 78, coupled with the fact that Justice Kennedy is 80 and thinking of retirement the odds are good that President Trump will nominate another Justice to the Court within the next four years. But it will only take a simple majority to do so and with the deck stacked against the Democrats in the Senate mid-term elections the Republicans could end up with between 54-56 Senators. If that occurs they would more than likely control the Senate for whomever wins the next Presidential election and that means a Democrat President could not get enough votes to confirm a nominee to the Court.
For these reasons I believe the U.S. Senate took a step backwards and politicized the Court in a manner that it should not be done.