Friday, April 07, 2017

Justice Gorsuch

When Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said flat out that the individual elected President of the United States the following November would fill the sudden vacancy. Given past GOP Senate spinelessness (see Gang of 14), I was bracing for Republicans to cave. However, McConnell et al held firm and did not give a hearing to President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland.

Shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President and the GOP Senate majority was sworn in, McConnell made another definitive statement saying Trump's SCOTUS pick "will be confirmed." When asked if he would consider extending the "nuclear option" to Supreme Court nominees, McConnell again replied "The nominee will be confirmed."

On Friday, this 14-month saga culminated just as McConnell had outlined the whole time.

The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday, filling the critical ninth seat that has been vacant for over a year and capping a tumultuous debate that saw Republicans overhaul the way the chamber operates in order to overcome what they described as an unprecedented Democratic filibuster.

The 54-45 vote, in which three Democrats crossed party lines to support the appeals court justice, is expected to restore a 5-4 conservative tilt on the bench. Once sworn in, Gorsuch will join the court and begin to hear cases, in the seat once held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

“He’s going to make the American people proud,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

It never made a lot of sense to me why Dems chose to filibuster this particular nominee, who isn't as extreme as they perceive. Now that the rules are changed to extend the nuclear option to SCOTUS nominees the remainder of this Senate session, the Democrats better hope that none of the four left wing justices move on within the next 18 months or so.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air also conveyed that this wasn't the wisest course of action for Senate Dems.

The most puzzling part of this was the missed opportunity to leverage the traditionalism of several Republicans in the Senate. Clearly a few of their colleagues across the aisle did not want to do go nuclear; John McCain grumbled about it to the bitter end. Why not give Gorsuch a floor vote and wait for a more provocative nominee on the next opening? Yes, Democrats and progressives insist that McConnell would have gone nuclear then too, but the success of that would depend on the nominee. McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski wouldn’t have signed up to change the rules for William Pryor, for instance, and that left Democrats some leverage against Trump to force him into at least some hesitancy in selecting more activist conservatives to the court.

Now, however, Trump has carte blanche on his next opening. Democrats have no leverage at all, having squandered it on a nominee that doesn’t impact the philosophical balance of the court at all. On top of that, their hysterics over Gorsuch have eroded their credibility entirely. Chuck Schumer let the progressive wing of his party lead him into a trap. It’s amazing.

I believe the appropriate phrase for Senate Democrats in this instance is "hoist of their own petard." Given their behavior leading up to and during Gorsuch's confirmation hearings, they got exactly what they deserved.


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