Blue Wall Cracking: More Democratic Senators Signal Opposition to SCOTUS Filibuster

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jan 31, 2017 5:05 PM
Blue Wall Cracking: More Democratic Senators Signal Opposition to SCOTUS Filibuster

In case you hadn't noticed, the Democratic Party's left flank is running around with its hair ablaze, reflexively opposing virtually all things Trump. As is so often the case, they're escalating partisan tensions by pioneering and expanding new methods of obstructionism, then squealing like stuck pigs when Republicans retaliate in kind. Given the party base's political blood lust, many Democrats are frantically feeding the beast. But not everyone is on board with this across-the-board, scorched-earth approach. Matt wrote earlier about a new statement from Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who admitted several weeks ago that he suddenly regrets going along with Harry Reid's 'nuclear option' on the filibuster.  Having been burned by his own partisan zeal, Coons has decided not to join the voices in his caucus clamoring for yet another escalation.  He's not alone.  Three Democrats who are up for re-election in Trump-dominated states next year have announced that they will not join the promised filibuster (see update) attempt against the president's Supreme Court nominee:

Manchin, Heitkamp and McCaskill have undoubtedly seen the polling in their respective states, and the Missourian is surely aware of her on-the-record stance that could be used against her back home if she flip-flops so abruptly.  Presuming that every Republican rallies behind Trump's SCOTUS selection -- and both finalists are quite well-regarded within conservative legal circles -- Mitch McConnell may already have 56 votes toward breaking a filibuster.  Will other Democratic Senators from states where Trump won in a romp follow suit?  Comments from Jon Tester of Montana ("have a hearing and a vote") may swell the list to 57.  Coons' stance, along with the more predictable defections, also suggests that it's not just deeply vulnerable Democrats who aren't convinced that goading the GOP to follow through on the Reid Rule and the Kaine Compact by finishing off the judicial filibuster is a good move.  Politico reports that Chuck Schumer's caucus is divided over strategy:

The Democratic Party is splintering over its strategy for handling President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, with liberals upset that Senate Democrats aren’t taking a harder line and moderates fretting about appearing too obstructive. In the middle is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who's facing one of the biggest moments in his career. Battles over Supreme Court nominees are epic struggles between the parties, and emotions are running hotter than normal this time around after Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing for almost all of last year...Schumer, for his part, has repeatedly said he will fight any nomination that isn't "mainstream," declining to match McConnell's strategy of a unilateral blockade so early in the process. A survey of Democratic members shows the wide range of opinions within the caucus.

CNN has a similar story up today.  It'll be hard for Schumer to make the "not mainstream" case (we know that he deliberately abuses the term "extreme," by his own admissions), given that Neil Gorsuch was breezily confirmed by voice vote in 2006. And on the off-chance that it's Hardiman, he was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.  My hunch is that Schumer the tactician would prefer to hold his fire and preserve the filibuster option for a potential second vacancy (for which Team Trump has a plan of its own), but the hard Left appears to have little appetite for pragmatism at the moment.  But some Senators may prioritize their own survival over the fleeting fury of the national grassroots.  UPDATE: I'll leave you with a caution from WaPo's Dave Weigel on what Coons and McCaskill may be counting as a "vote," followed by a clarification from McCaskill:

She's forever straddling the fence between her left-wing impulses and her conservative state.  This would appear that she's not ruling out the filibuster -- yet, at least.  Keep in mind that she demanded an "up or down vote" just a few months ago.  If 41 Democrats decide to mount a filibuster against the new nominee, as some have promised before his or her identity has even been revealed, Republicans will decide whether to expand the Reid Rule; Ted Cruz says this option is definitely on the table, and Mitch McConnell has hinted the same. UPDATE - Here's my analysis of the coming confirmation fight from the steps of the Supreme Court earlier today: