As expected, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 this afternoon to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate. During his confirmation hearings, Democrats floundered to land a blow against Gorsuch, expressing frustration that he followed the Ginsburg rule by declining to pre-judge potential cases; as is so often true, members of that perpetually-aggrieved party gnash their teeth whenever they are held to their own standards. There's also the point that Republicans have won consecutive elections, re-taking the upper chamber in the 2014 red wave, then holding on to power with an expectedly strong 2016 showing. They therefore control a majority on the body's committees, including the panel that voted this morning. This outcome sets up an anticipated showdown over the so-called 'nuclear option,' better known today as the Reid Rule:
The likelihood of a now-confirmed unprecedented partisan filibuster against Gorsuch surged over the weekend when "moderate" Montana Senator Jon Tester revealed his intention to participate in his party's extraordinary and radical game plan. His rationale wasn't quite as obnoxious as Claire McCaskill's, citing the evils of "dark money" (cough) and hinting euphemistically about abortion. Tester represents a state that hasn't voted for a pro-choice presidential nominee in decades. Dubbing him 'Schumer with a flat top' haircut, I also previewed a potent line of attack against the incumbent Senator who faces re-elected next year in a state Donald Trump carried by 20 percentage points:
Ad: Tester joins unprecedented Schumer/Warren filibuster of SCOTUS pick w/ strong record upholding 2nd Amendment & praised by NRA. #MTSen— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 3, 2017
Montanans are quite fond of their gun rights, yet they've got a Senator who is committed to blocking Supreme Court justices who will safeguard those rights. No matter what he says about the Second Amendment, Jon Tester caving to the left on Gorsuch proves that he ultimately stands with special interests that want to see Heller overturned. Meanwhile, here are the left-leaning editors of USA Today joining many newspapers from around the country in editorializing in favor of confirming Gorsuch. They preen with outrage about the GOP's treatment of Merrick Garland, ignoring several pieces of key context of Republicans' tactics in that stand-off, but ultimately opine that Gorsuch merits support on his own terms:
By traditional measures, Gorsuch is a reasonable heir to the seat held by Scalia, an iconic "originalist" who interpreted the Constitution’s words in the way they were understood by the Founders. Importantly, Gorsuch’s confirmation would leave the ideological balance on the court roughly where it was before Scalia's death. Our custom on the Editorial Board is to evaluate Supreme Court nominees based on their academic and legal credentials, personal integrity, position within the broad judicial mainstream and respect for legal precedent (which should be healthy but not mindless). Gorsuch’s credentials are impeccable: Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, federal and Supreme Court clerkships and a decade on the federal appeals bench. He received a “well-qualified” rating, the highest available, from the American Bar Association. On principles and independence, he has gotten an array of glowing references, including from some Democrats and liberals. Extensive vetting has unearthed no hint of personal scandal. As for his judicial philosophy, the 49-year-old judge from Colorado would not be on our short list for the high court. While in the broad mainstream, he veers too close to the right bank for our taste, particularly on issues involving discrimination, government protection of the powerless and, presumably, reproductive rights. But he is no fire-breathing extremist.
The paper also published a dissenting op/ed from a left-winger attacking Gorsuch as an "extremist." So extreme that his rulings have fallen within the majority 99 percent of the time, and he was enthusiastically endorsed and introduced by President Obama's Solicitor General. The lazy, paint-by-numbers "extreme!' hand-wringing just doesn't hold water. I'll leave you with the venerable Dianne Feinstein announcing that despite her prior positive assessments of Neil Gorsuch, she won't vote to approve him:
Whether she's also a 'no' vote on cloture (and thus pro-filibuster) remained unclear at the time. For days, Democrats appeared to be close very close to getting the 41 votes their lefty base is shouting for, and Chuck Schumer said he believed they'd get there, and he was right. A nuclear confrontation awaits. By the way, Jim Geraghty and others have been scratching their heads over a question I've been getting at in recent writings, too: Why are Democrats engaging in this fight right now? Given the various reasons to at least hold off until the next fight, what is their strategic thinking here? The truth is, there is no plan, as acknowledged by this Washington Post correspondent:
@jonathanweisman There is no plan. It's just screaming into the wind. They'd rather show base that they filibustered than do nothing.— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) April 3, 2017