On Tuesday night, President Trump selected Judge Neil Gorsuch as his first Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is a judge being described as very similar to Scalia, in terms of judicial thinking and skepticism of government. As a result, Senator Chuck Schumer has vowed to stall and possibly filibuster this nomination, perhaps leading to a situation where Senate rules will be altered to allowed a simple majority confirmation of Supreme Court justices, also known as the “nuclear option.”
Report from Fox News:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed Tuesday night that President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick would be confirmed by the Senate.
When asked on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” whether he would use the so-called “nuclear option” to force Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation by a simple majority vote, McConnell said, “I’m not going to answer that. Let me just tell you, we’re going to get this judge confirmed.”
“But isn’t that answering?” host Bret Baier pressed.
“We’re going to get the judge confirmed,” McConnell repeated.
“So you would?” Baier asked again.
“We’re going to get the judge confirmed,” said McConnell, who later pointed out that six Senate Democrats had already come out against filibustering against Gorsuch’s appointment.
The bottom line is that if it comes down to it, McConnell will in fact use the “nuclear option” to get Gorsuch on the bench. Democrats changed the filibuster rule back during the Obama administration to get Federal judges confirmed with a simple majority, though stopped short of changing the rule for Supreme Court nominees. McConnell may be the one to take it one step further, and undoubtedly Trump will be pushing for it.
Senator Ted Cruz, an ardent opponent of Trump during the campaign, has also vowed to fight for the Gorsuch nomination:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in an interview Tuesday that “all procedural options are on the table” when it comes to confirming a strong conservative to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.
“The Democrats are not going to succeed in filibustering the Supreme Court nominee,” Cruz told Politico. “All procedural options are on the table. The bottom line is we will confirm a strong conservative to replace Justice Scalia.”
What the Gorsuch nomination appears to have done is unify the Republican Party around Trump’s choice, and will create something for them to rally on in coming months.
The Democratic responses was, as expected, to cast serious doubt on Gorsuch and start to build up a narrative as to why his nomination should be opposed. This from Yahoo News:
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has “serious doubts” about whether Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, should be confirmed. Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, made the statement shortly after the announcement Tuesday night and suggested that he’s willing to filibuster Trump’s choice for the high court.
“Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court,” Schumer said in a statement.
The Senate minority leader also emphasized that the Senate should keep its 60-vote standard — the amount necessary to defeat a filibuster — to approve Supreme Court nominees, calling it “a bar that was met by each of President Obama’s nominees.” Schumer said it is up to Gorsuch to prove he is in the “mainstream” and willing to defend the Constitution from “abuses of the executive branch.”
Schumer has to make these points, it’s his job to paint Gorsuch as outside the mainstream as a means to justify stiff opposition. McConnell claims he has six Democratic Senators who have said Gorsuch should not be filibustered. If true, that would point to an easy win for confirmation even on a party line vote of 52 to 48. Schumer’s job will be to hold together a coalition of Democratic Senators willing to go to the mat over this issue and prevent any more from breaking off. I’m not sure how this will play out, but I suspect it will be a lengthy process that will be a rough ride for all parties.
Trump has stated he wants Gorsuch seated on the Court by early April, which is just before the Court meets for the next term of cases. That basically gives McConnell two months to get this process done. Get your popcorn ready.