Going nuclear may serve Republicans today, but in the long term, it may do more for Democrats. Today, in response to a Democratic filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the Republicans voted to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination. The Republicans have an immediate victory here: Justice Gorsuch will be sitting on the Supreme Court before its oral arguments scheduled for later this month. But in the long run, the elimination of the filibuster may help Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. (I’m not alone in thinking about unintended consequences here. Nate Silver of 538.com has an extensive piece today about how Republicans have generally used the filibuster more effectively than Democrats to block legislation and arguing that eroding its power may thus advantage Democrats in areas beyond the Supreme Court.)
Here are the arguments for why Senate Democrats should filibuster:
- They need to protest what Republicans did to Judge Garland’s nomination last year. Democrats need to take extraordinary action to make it clear the extreme wrong of the Republican refusal to hold hearings.
- Judge Gorsuch will be such a conservative justice that Democrats need to do all they can to try to stop his nomination.
- The Base. The progressive base and liberal pressure groups are energized and are demanding that Democratic senators do all they can to stop the nomination. Even if a filibuster is unlikely to prevent Gorsuch from taking his seat, it could be seen as a partial victory and might further energize the base for future battles.
- Long Game. The most likely consequence of a filibuster—i.e., the “nuclear option” of a Senate rules change that eliminates the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations—is not as bad as it sounds. A straight majority vote process might even allow a future Democratic-controlled Senate to get a more liberal justice onto the Court.
It’s showdown week for the Gorsuch nomination. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee debates and votes on the nominee. Democratic committee members scored a minor victory after the hearings had concluded when they were able to head off the effort of Republican committee members to have a quick vote on Gorsuch. The Democrats asked for more time so they could receive and review written responses to questions posed by the senators. The Committee vote on Gorsuch today is expected to fall along party lines (11 Republicans in support; 9 Democrats opposed).
Then the real fireworks are expected when the nomination comes to the full Senate.
Judge Neil Gorsuch is headed toward Senate confirmation. Ever since the President made the nomination, it has been hard to imagine another outcome. Short of some scandalous skeletons emerging from Judge Gorsuch’s closet—a closet that, by all accounts, appears safely devoid of anything of much interest—this is a loss Democrats expected. The Republicans have the votes to put Gorsuch on the Court (although they may need to invoke the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster to do so). Gorsuch’s strong performance in the hearings only gave them more reasons to support him.
Knowing this was a loss they were going to have to absorb, Democrats still hoped to at least score some political points during the hearings. It was a highly visible opportunity to advance their concerns with the politics surrounding the nomination process and the nominee’s conservative jurisprudence. Yet here too, I think the Democratic efforts should be judged a loss. They were unable to take advantage of the hearings to advance their agenda in any meaningful way.
It was another long day for Judge Neil Gorsuch. Yesterday, day three of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, was the second round of questions from senators on the Judiciary Committee. In the first round, senators had thirty minutes each to question the nominee; for the second round, senators had twenty minutes each. The headlines were largely the same as the day before: Gorsuch was composed and articulate, if perhaps a bit overly scripted at times; he gave precious little in the way of specific views on key legal issues or precedents, seemingly even less than other recent nominees; and things generally are looking good for the judge to become the next associate justice of the US Supreme Court.
It was a long day for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. For over eleven hours yesterday, the 10th Circuit judge answered questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Each senator had thirty minutes to question Judge Gorsuch (or, as was often the case, to deliver monologues with question marks at the end). The second day of the confirmation hearings concluded after the dinner hour on a rather strange note, with a senator suggesting that Judge Gorsuch stay away from vodka for the night and the nominee saying he was ready to “hit the hay.”
It’s finally here. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch to become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Judge Gorsuch has been busy during the seven weeks since President Trump nominated him. He has met with 72 senators. He has been studying, going over his own opinions and reviewing major Supreme Court decisions that are likely to be discussed at the hearings. And he has been sharpening his answers by participating in simulated confirmation hearing sessions. (NPR’s Nina Totenberg notes that Robert Bork, who the Senate refused to confirm in 1987, “refused to submit himself to these practice sessions, and paid dearly with a performance that made him sometimes sound arrogant and less than fully candid.” The New York Times just posted a video documentary looking back at the Bork nomination. )
Less than a week away from the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court and the media machine is ramping up. Journalists are publishing a new round of stories on Gorsuch. Commentators, activists, and politicians are busy attacking and defending the nominee, each side hoping to score a few points before the main event begins on Monday.
In the National Law Journal, Tony Mauro reviewed notes from a 2010 speech Judge Gorsuch submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluding that the nominee offered a distinctly “bleak” portrait of the American legal system. Among Gorsuch’s complaints were the expense and delays of the discovery stage of civil litigation. “Not long ago we used to have trials without discovery,” he noted. “Now we have discovery without trials.” Gorsuch also lamented the increasing “vitriol” of the Supreme Court confirmation process.
It’s week six of the Gorsuch nomination. His nomination hearings begin on March 20.
The first anniversary of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia (whose seat Gorsuch, if approved, would take) has sparked a new round of comparisons between the two jurists.
Judge Gorsuch, writes Richard Wolf in USA Today, “represent[s] the first generation of Supreme Court justices to have been influenced by Scalia’s rulings, writings, and teachings while still in law school.” Gorsuch’s writing has often been compared to Scalia’s. Mark Sherman of the AP wrote a story on his accessible writing style.
It’s been almost a month since Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s the latest news on his confirmation process.
The most interesting news of the past week concerning the Gorsuch nomination was a plan floated by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall that sounded a lot like a West Wing episode (Season 5, Episode 17). Udall’s plan would involve Trump administration officials striking a deal with a liberal Supreme Court justice who might be looking to replace that justice with Judge Merrick Garland, allowing Obama’s and Trump’s nominees to get seats on the Court. Call it the Gorsuch-Garland Gambit. Udall believes such a plan show the country that the new President is really interested in acting to “unite the country.” (It’s not going to happen, but it’s fun to think about it.) To no one’s surprise, the White House does not think much of Senator Udall’s plan.