McCaskill: If We Block Gorsuch, ‘The Things I Fought For With Scars On My Back To Show For It…Are In Jeopardy’

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Mar 31, 2017 1:15 PM
McCaskill: If We Block Gorsuch, ‘The Things I Fought For With Scars On My Back To Show For It…Are In Jeopardy’

UPDATE: Well, looks like she's going to roll the dice on supporting the filibuster:

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Friday that she will not support the nomination of conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and will join a Democratic effort to block his confirmation vote, which is scheduled for next week.

“This is a really difficult decision for me. I am not comfortable with either choice,” McCaskill said in a statement.

“While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court ?—? and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation ?— ?I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future,” McCaskill said.

UPDATE II: McCaskill tweeted this on the day Grosuch was nominated.

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Guy touched upon what could be a rift between Senate Democrats on the Gorsuch filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called on his colleagues to block Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch because a) he’s not Merrick Garland; b) he’s a conservative; c) Trump won; and d) the progressive base is demanding thermonuclear war on the Trump agenda. He’s slowly cobbling together the votes to block the qualified nominee, who has garnered support across the political spectrum, highlighting that the GOP would have plenty of political cover (and a good reason) to nuke the filibuster rules. It may come to that. At least nine Senate Democrats did say that Gorsuch deserved a hearing and a vote. Of that group, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have broken ranks to support a filibuster of Gorsuch. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have said they will not support such an endeavor. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Claire McCaskill are still up in the air.

These red state Democrats know that 2018 is going to be a challenge. In some cases, it shouldn’t shock us if they find themselves in the fight for their political lives. As Guy noted, McCaskill is walking the tightrope, but new audio obtained by the Missouri Republican Party from a fundraiser with the Democratic senator shows that she knows the dangers of this filibuster game Schumer has his caucus playing with Republicans (via Kansas City Star) [emphasis mine]:

“The Gorsuch situation is really hard. There are going to be people in this room that are going to say, ‘No, no, no. You cannot vote for Gorsuch,’ ” McCaskill said in the recording. “Let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that we turn down Gorsuch, that there are not eight Democrats that vote to confirm him and therefore there’s not enough to put him on the Supreme Court. What then?”

She pointed to the list of potential nominees that Trump released before the election to galvanize conservative support. “By the way, Gorsuch was one of the better ones,” McCaskill quipped.

“So they pick another one off the list and then they bring it over to the Senate and we say no, no, no, this one’s worse. And there’s not enough votes to confirm him. They’re not going to let us do that too long before they move it to 51 votes,” she said.

[…]

McCaskill made a distinction between using the filibuster to block Gorsuch, who would replace Scalia, arguably the court’s most conservative justice during his tenure, and using it to block a nominee if one of the court’s more liberal or centrist justices dies or retires.

“So they move it to 51 votes and they confirm either Gorsuch or they confirm the one after Gorsuch,” she continued. “They go on the Supreme Court and then, God forbid, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, or (Anthony) Kennedy retires or (Stephen) Breyer has a stroke or is no longer able to serve. Then we’re not talking about Scalia for Scalia, which is what Gorsuch is, we’re talking about Scalia for somebody on the court who shares our values. And then all of a sudden the things I fought for with scars on my back to show for it in this state are in jeopardy."

Alas, some reason from the other side. Sen. McCaskill knows that it’s best to keep the powder dry in case of a second vacancy, where the balance of the Court would be at stake for liberals. This all-in mentality over a conservative replacing a conservative isn’t smart strategy and she knows that, but like all politicians, McCaskill wants to be re-elected. She’s definitely on the chopping block—and Democrats have become an endangered species in this area of the country. In neighboring Arkansas, Mark Pryor lasted as long as he could before losing to Sen. Tom Cotton in 2014. McCaskill survived in 2012 due to Republican opponent Todd Akin making a horrible remark about rape that spilled over to other races as well. It may not be so easy a re-election ride since Republicans had worked on gaffe-proofing their candidates. They deployed this strategy in 2014. The result was a GOP takeover of the Senate.

But getting back to these filibuster games, it’s clear that McCaskill is in a no-win situation with her base and her political standing. Trump won Missouri handily and the growing red trend of the state could have her updating her resume come January 2019 no matter what she does on Gorsuch. In all, at least there’s one Democrat who seems to know the risks of playing chicken with Republicans on the filibuster rules. She knows her colleagues would nuke it—and if Schumer keeps this up, they should. 

Ace Of Spades Decision Desk has the latest on the filibuster count. There's a lot of uncertainty on the Democratic side.