With their angry left-wing base whipped into a frenzy of opposition on virtually every imaginable front, some Senate Democrats are promising towage a filibuster against President Trump's yet-unnamed Supreme Court nominee. The president will unveil his selection tomorrow evening, yet Democrats are preemptively vowing to obstruct anyone he chooses -- retaliation, they say, for Republicans' refusal to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland under the Biden Rule. Battle lines, drawn:
Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to the fill the current vacancy. With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump's nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate. “This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.” It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.
Lest you think this is just a back-bencher chirping, top Democratic leaders are also refusing to rule out a filibuster. Let's be clear: This seat is not "stolen." Senate Republicans -- who were voted into the majority by the American people in 2014, then and again after the 2016 Garland fight -- merely followed the precedent recommended by then-Senator Joe Biden in the 1980s, then endorsed by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer in the waning years of the George W. Bush administration. They declined to act on a nomination put forward by a lame duck president amid a contested election year. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made the SCOTUS skirmish a major campaign issue, and Trump won; he also carried a solid majorityamong voters who said the Court was a top factor in their decision. Yet here we have Democrats promising to use a legislative tool that they actively and intentionally undermined in order to thwart the next nominee, no matter who he or she is. The hypocrisy is flagrant, particularly from Merkley:
Republicans immediately dinged Merkley as a hypocrite for being a leading advocate of changing the Senate rules four years ago."When Democrats were in the majority, Sen. Merkley wanted to end filibusters. But I guess he only meant when Democrats are in the majority and in control of the White House," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Speaking of McConnell, he says that he doesn't want to finish what Harry Reid started by doing what Democrats said they'd do if Hillary had won. But he's also guaranteeing that Trump's appointment will be confirmed, which sounds like a threat to further nuke the filibuster if Democrats are intransigent and further violate precedent. Skip ahead to the (4:30) mark and listen carefully, especially to McConnell's recent history lesson for his Democratic colleagues. Whether he's forced to consider the nuclear option will be up to them, he says:
Well, look, let me tell you what ought to happen. President Clinton, in his first term, had two Supreme Court nominees, Ginsburg and Breyer. There was no filibuster. And for your listeners, there was no requirement that you get 60 votes to consider them. President Obama had two Supreme Court nominees in his first term. There was no filibuster against them. We're in the first term of a new president. What we're hoping is that our Democratic friends in the minority in the Senate, as we were during those same comparable periods under Clinton and Obama, will treat this nominee in the same way and give him an up-or-down vote. If cloture, that is, if getting 60 votes is required, that happened with Justice Alito; a Democratic minority insisted on that. Cloture was invoked. In other words, he was given the opportunity to have an up-or-down vote on the final nomination. So it's way too early for me to tell you or anybody else what we might do. I think how this is handled depends on our Democratic friends.
Meanwhile, conservative and Republican groups are priming the pump for a major fight with Democrats, if a filibuster is mounted and sustained. The Judicial Crisis Network is prepared to spend $10 million on ads regarding the confirmation battle, urging Senators to allow an up-or-down vote on Trump's nominee. And other groups are already turning the screws on vulnerable 2018 Democrats from red states, challenging them to announce whether they're signing on to Merkley's filibuster scheme:
Conservative groups already pressuring vulnerable red state Dems up in 2018 to announce intentions on SCOTUS filibuster plot: pic.twitter.com/LxkckX0hwg— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 30, 2017
I'll leave you with this question, via the NRSC: Do Democrats no longer believe that "eight is not enough"?