Democratic Senator on Trump SCOTUS Nominee: I'll Push For A Hearing And A Vote (And Others Agree With Him)

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 31, 2017 12:40 PM
Democratic Senator on Trump SCOTUS Nominee: I'll Push For A Hearing And A Vote (And Others Agree With Him)

Senate Democrats are preparing to battle President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee who will be announced later tonight. It was said that they would filibuster the nominee no matter what and no matter how qualified. They’re going to obstruct, despite the fact that they have no precedent to do so. The Left is trying to say that it’s fine since the GOP blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination, but Republicans had precedent set by then-Sen. Joe Biden, who said that no Supreme Court nominations should be considered during an election year; 2016 was a tremendous election year that ended with Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes being dashed. Christmas came early.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that he would fight “tooth and nail” a nominee that is not of the mainstream. In other words, if the nominee isn’t Garland or some other left-of-center jurist. The problem is that the reported top two leading contenders to be nominated by Trump tonight—Judges Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman—are mainstream in the sense that the Senate unanimously confirmed them in 2006 and 2007 when they took their seats on the Tenth and Third Circuit Court of Appeals respectively. They’re okay for the federal court but not the highest federal court. That’s going to be an interesting argument for the Left to make.

Yet, as both sides seem to be preparing for war over SCOTUS, there is one Senate Democrat who will push for a hearing and a vote—and he may have others who agree with his sentiment to avoid nuking the filibuster for future Supreme Court nominations (via CNN):

Senate Democrats are weighing whether to avoid an all-out war to block President Donald Trump's upcoming Supreme Court pick, instead considering delaying that battle for a future nomination that could shift the ideological balance of the court, sources say.

Democrats privately discussed their tactics during a closed-door retreat in West Virginia last week. And a number of Democrats are trying to persuade liberal firebrands to essentially let Republicans confirm Trump's pick after a vigorous confirmation process -- since Trump is likely to name a conservative to replace the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

[…]

Preserving the filibuster now could give Democrats more leverage in the future, proponents of this strategy say. But it would enrage the Democratic base that wants a furious Democratic response to Trump's court pick.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, a member of the Judiciary Committee told CNN he is still seething over the Republicans' decision to block Judge Merrick Garland from filling the seat when they refused to hold hearings and votes on his nomination last year.

"But I'm not going to do to President Trump's nominee what the Republicans in the Senate did to President Obama's," Coons said. "I will push for a hearing and I will push for a vote."

Other Democrats privately agreed with that sentiment.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, No. 2 in leadership, called the discussion "speculative."

Guy wrote about how Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) offered some ominous signs of a bloody fight ahead, with his announcement that he would filibuster whomever Trump nominates, claiming that the seat was “stolen” (whatever that means). Yet, CNN added that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a staunch liberal, is waiting to see who is nominated tonight, adding that Merkley’s filibuster overtures were pretty much his alone. A senior Democratic aide told the news organization that the filibuster threat was expected, but whether it has widespread Democratic support remains dubious. It could go the way of Obama’s failed filibuster against Justice Alito in 2006.

I’m sure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would appreciate it big league if Senate Democrats just decide to go along with a hearing and a vote since it would force his hand to do something about the filibuster rules regarding Supreme Court nominations. McConnell has vowed to confirm anyone who Trump nominates (via WSJ):

An institutionalist who reveres the Senate as a stabilizing force in tumultuous times, Mr. McConnell has spent years defending Senate rules that require 60 votes to advance a Supreme Court nomination—a high hurdle in the current highly partisan environment.

Now, Mr. McConnell likely will be forced to choose between preserving a Senate tradition and maintaining his allegiance to a Republican base that will pressure him to change the rules in order to put Mr. Trump’s nominee on the court.

With only 52 Republican votes, Mr. McConnell can’t meet the 60-vote hurdle without support from the opposing party. But Democrats are in no mood to cooperate with Mr. Trump and are still irate that Republicans erected a blockade last year against then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

Given how powerless Democrats are to block any of President Trump’s cabinet nominees, they should seriously consider an all-out war as their course of action. On presidential appointments, the most they can do is delay the inevitable, which they’re maximizing against Trump’s Treasury and Health and Human Services nominees—Steve Mnuchin and Rep. Tom Price respectively. We all know the Left hates DeVos, Mnuchin, Price, and Sessions, but they’re unable to stop them. The only saving grace is that unless stated otherwise, those cabinet appointees are supposed to submit their resignations at the end of a term; a Supreme Court appointment is permanent—and it’s possible that Trump could put another two on the high court. Bite the bullet on the temporary appointments, but keep things in place for SCOTUS, have a hearing, weigh the qualifications of the candidate, and hold a vote. If they don’t like it, well they can direct their frustration to their 2016 candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for losing the election.