A group of Senate Democrats is beginning to explore trying to extract concessions from Republicans in return for allowing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The lawmakers worry that Gorsuch could be confirmed whether Democrats try to block him or not — and Democrats would be left with nothing to show for it. That would be a bitter pill after the GOP blocked Merrick Garland for nearly a year. The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term. The next high court opening could alter the balance of the court, and some Democrats privately argue that fight will be far more consequential than the current one.They'll offer Republicans a smooth confirmation for a man who is obviously going to be confirmed in exchange for...a guarantee that Republicans won't interfere if and when Democrats mount a campaign of nasty, knee-jerk opposition to President Trump's next SCOTUS nominee? Cue the laugh track. The party that has been the aggressor in the Senate's confirmation wars ever since the Bork episode, and that has escalated their strong-arm or obstructionist tactics at every turn to suit their immediate political needs, suddenly wants a "truce" that will earn the GOP absolutely nothing. In return for rubber-stamping an inevitability now, Democrats want to preserve the filibuster for the next fight, which could reportedly come as soon as this summer. They don't want to abide by the 'Reid Rule' that they triggered in 2013, even after more or less promising to blow up the judicial filibuster for Supreme Court picks if Hillary had won. Sure, they're still sore over Merrick Garland never receiving a hearing or vote, but that was merely a case of Mitch McConnell enforcing the standard passionately laid out by Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer in 1992 and 2007, respectively. As is so often the case on these matters, Senate Democrats want to erect one set of rules for themselves (under which they always win), and a separate set of rules for Republicans. Just say no. Voters saw fit to send a Republican majority to the upper chamber in 2014, then kept Republicans in control two years later -- despite a challenging map, and after Democrats made a giant stink over the Garland controversy.
As a matter of precedent, the last two Democratic presidents each nominated two SCOTUS justices in their first terms, all four of whom were easily confirmed by the Senate. Republicans did not attempt to mount filibusters against any of those candidates, even though they knew full well that the judges the were approving would spend the next few decades handing down reliably liberal rulings. "Elections have consequences," Democrats solemnly intoned. Quite so. And now Donald Trump is the president -- thanks in significant measure to conservative voters who prioritized judicial appointments. Among all voters who said the future of the Supreme Court was their top voting factor, Trump won by 15 percentage points. Elections do have consequences. Democrats are now trying to cope with the reality that they lost in 2016, and that the composition of the Court could be at stake. Gorsuch, therefore, is actually a relatively low-stakes fight. Trump is simply replacing one originalist with another; the status quo remains intact. It's the next battle that very well could shift the Court's ideological make-up rightward, which is why Senate Democrats are nervously mulling their options while puffing out their chests with farcical offers to the GOP. Based on early indications, Republicans aren't playing along. Here's one of McConnell's top aides slapping the idea down on Twitter last night:
But Democrats recognize that they don't need very many Republicans to buy into this nonsense for it to potentially work:
If Democrats move ahead with the plan — it’s still in the early discussion phase — it would require buy-in from some Republicans, but not necessarily Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or his top deputies. At least three rank-and-file GOP members would have to pledge not to vote to unilaterally change the Senate rules through a majority-only vote later in Trump’s term — the so-called nuclear option...Some Democrats are worried enough about the Senate losing its unique minority rights that they’ve begun kicking the tires on the potential for a new bipartisan “gang.” The current talks are limited to about a half-dozen Democratic lawmakers. They haven’t made an offer to Republicans yet, and Democratic leaders wouldn’t support one.If they're terrified of losing 'unique minority rights' that they eagerly voted to strip from Republicans under Harry Reid's gambit, and which they threatened to expand if the presidential election had gone the other way, here's a radical idea: Stick to the Clinton/Obama precedent and don't filibuster qualified nominees. Incidentally, why wouldn't Democratic leaders support the extension of a one-sided offer to Republicans that would clearly benefit their own party? Because any hint of an olive branch to the GOP, even one that would be a strategic coup in their favor, would further inflame their wild-eyed 'Resist' base. Former Hillary flack Brain Fallon was overcome by the vapors at the mere suggestion of cutting some kind of agreement:
Conservatives might actually want to root for the Democrats' raging left-wing cauldron to get its way on Gorsuch. If Democrats follow through on their filibuster threats against such an unquestionably qualified and respected nominee, that would make Mitch McConnell's decision to impose the Reid Rule quite a bit easier. Democrats would look like a bunch of petulant, precedent-ignoring, flaming hypocrites, so Republicans could push Reid's nuke button without much of a second thought. But if Democrats took the short-term hit among their hardcore supporters by supporting Gorsuch in spite of their "deep concerns" etc., their inevitable obstruction of a future Trump nominee might at least appear less reflexive. Nevertheless, McConnell and his caucus should be prepared to either apply the Reid Rule in the future, or use other tools that would ultimately guarantee an up-or-down vote for any Trump selection to the High Court. Republicans know exactly how Democrats would operate if the shoe were on the other foot because they've done it, and they've told us. With that knowledge and history in mind, a unilateral disarmament would be absolutely unacceptable. The Left plays hardball when the chips are down. Republicans finally did the same with Merrick Garland. And if Democrats think they can get away with another unanswered escalation on this front, Mitch the Knife ought to brush 'em back with a high, hard one.
Parting thought: Fast-forwarding to the next SCOTUS battle, one argument that Schumer and friends will undoubtedly employ to justify their attempted obstructionism is that the replacement of a moderate or liberal justice with a conservative one would alter the Court's ideological balance. True. Guess what? When President Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Justice Byron White (a conservative who cast a dissenting vote in Roe v. Wade), the Court shifted to the left. She was confirmed 96-3. Also, let's not forget that Hillary Clinton explicitly campaigned on the promise of replacing Justice Scalia with a liberal. She was positively enthusiastic about tilting the balance of the Court. But that kind of change is acceptable, you see, because progress, or whatever. Once again, Democrats don't believe the standards they try to impose upon their opposition should apply to them, hence their orgy of double-standards and hypocritical hysteria. Just say no. Oh, and in case you needed one more chuckle before you go:
Whatever you say, Chuck.
Editor's Note: A version of this column is cross-posted at HotAir.com