I wrote this in February of 2017.
The Democrats have already reflexively announced their opposition to Gorsuch, even though their criticisms have failed to rise to any cogent standard. Wisconsin’s own Senator Tammy Baldwin has even refused to meet with Gorsuch, thus abdicating her role in the process and retreating behind nasty press releases and daft commentary.
Far be it from me to advise the Democrats, but their overreach on Gorsuch may neuter them further on future picks. Remember that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid killed the filibuster rule for all but Supreme Court picks in his effort to ram through President Obama’s lower court appointments, but left it in place for Supreme Court appointments. In doing so, Reid laid the ideological groundwork and precedent for killing the filibuster rule for Supreme Court picks too.
If the Democrats in the U.S. Senate choose to filibuster and obstruct what is clearly a brilliantly qualified choice for the Supreme Court, the Republicans can rescind the filibuster rule for Supreme Court picks too and confirm the appointment without needing to make a single concession to the minority party. The Democrats’ intransigence and unwillingness to even participate in the process, and the precedent already established by Harry Reid, will provide ample political cover for the change in rules.
Then, if and when Trump gets another opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, the rules will already be set to allow an easy confirmation. If the Democrats participate and allow a vote – even if all of them vote against the nominee – they will likely preserve the filibuster for future Supreme Court nominations while undercutting the political justification to rescind it next time.
If the political battles of the past few years in Wisconsin have taught me anything, it is that Democrats will overreach. Their base of radicals demands unbending fealty to ideology – even at the expense of victory.
As it turned out, McConnell did end the filibuster for SCOTUS confirmations over the Gorsuch fight and here we are. Then the Democrats hardened once “play nice” Senators like Graham during their atrocious behavior in the Kavanaugh hearing. Again, I expect the Democrats to overreach again here.
Through all of this I continue to lament that we attach so much importance to a single judge; on a 9-judge panel; in one branch of our federal government. It shows how much power we have ceded to the federal government and, specifically, the Supreme Court. Do you know why judge appointments were mostly a non-event outside of Washington for well over a century of our nation’s history? Because it didn’t impact the lives of most Americans. That’s not the case anymore and our Republic is worse for it.