It's On: GOP Appears Ready to Go 'Nuclear' if Democrats Mount Indefensible, Unpopular Filibuster of Gorsuch

Posted: Mar 30, 2017 2:01 PM

Democrats have zero intellectually-defensible reasons -- none -- to sustain the first-ever partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, but due to the demands of their extreme base and their misplaced anger over finally being held to their own standards last year, they appear to be headed in that direction anyway. Many liberals have been cheering on this mindless obstruction, with some whispering around that Republicans won't have the votes to invoke the Reid Rule and end the judicial filibuster for nominees to the High Court (Reid's unjustifiable 2013 power grab was, of course, one of many unilateral Democratic escalations that has brought us to this point). Are Democrats smart to bet on the GOP folding when the pressure is on? Many conservative activists frustrated with the party might be tempted to say yes -- but just as a steady drumbeat of reporting increasingly points to Chuck Schumer whipping at least 41 votes on behalf of his unprecedented filibuster, it's also looking more and more like Mitch McConnell's team is steeling itself to do what must be done in the face of the Left's latest round of extraordinary partisan aggression:

As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., continues to make his case for his colleagues to fall in line behind the filibuster to block Gorsuch from being confirmed, centrist Republicans who have a history of arguing to preserve Senate rules appear open to changing them if Democrats continue to try to obstruct his confirmation, as expected. At least six centrist to more moderate Republicans have either come out squarely in favor of going nuclear to confirm Gorsuch or this week have signaled a willingness to be persuaded to vote to change the rules..."There are no grounds for a filibuster of Neil Gorsuch," she told reporters Tuesday afternoon. Asked if she would support a decision by Senate GOP leaders to "go nuclear," Collins said: "I am not eager to see the rules changed, so I hope that Democrats do not launch a filibuster against an eminently well-qualified nominee...I'm hoping we're not going to get to that point — that's all I want to say," she added.
This is the tone that several GOP centrists have taken in discussing this looming standoff: Please don't make us to this, Democrats. Somewhat worrisomely, one name that didn't appear in that Washington Examiner story is Alaska's Lisa Murkoswksi, an independent who caucuses with Republicans and who is often a threat to buck the party.  But Murkowksi has been very high on Gorsuch, and a new Politico piece quotes the Alaskan making it quite clear that she's firmly committed to getting Gorsuch confirmed, one way or the other: "If it was another nominee that was polarizing, that was not more mainstream, maybe then this is an issue,” she said. “I believe very, very strongly that Neil Gorsuch needs to be confirmed. So I’m going to figure out a way to get him confirmed.”  Your move, Democrats. Are there eight members on Team Blue willing to infuriate the Left and vote in favor of cloture? Maybe:
The Senate is expected to take up Gorsuch’s nomination next week, and the dynamic could change before then. Several senators, like Cardin, Coons, Mark Warner of Virginia and Angus King of Maine, could still vote to advance Gorsuch to an up-or-down vote under the right conditions, though they would face blowback from liberals. There are five Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump won handily in the same category, though just West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has committed to vote for Gorsuch . Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are all concerned about changing the fabric of the Senate — but it’s not clear what they are willing to do about it. “I’m going to base it on his qualifications and his opinions,” Tester said. “I don’t think Montanans want me to be cutting a deal.”

And that list doesn't include the Feinsteins and Leahys of the world; veteran liberals who don't like Gorsuch's philosophy, but who've been around long enough to develop real over the prospect of forcing this sort of rules-changing confrontation -- especially when the party is on such weak political ground. In addition to yesterday's poll showing nearly two-to-one support (44/23) for confirming Gorsuch among voters, a new YouGov survey finds a similar margin (40/23) in favor of his confirmation, while a fresh NBC survey finds that an outright majority of Americans (37/54) oppose Democrats' planned filibuster:

I'll leave you with Orrin Hatch -- Utah's senior Senator and a longtime institutionalist, who nonetheless is ready to push the 'Reid Rule' button if intransigent Democrats force his hand -- offering a brief history lesson highlighting Chuck Schumer's glaring personal hypocrisy on these tactics:

"Democrats have been playing this game for years, embracing one standard when it suits them, only to do an about-face later...Senator Schumer voted 25 times to filibuster judicial nominees of President George W. Bush. Then, when nomination filibusters had declined under President Obama, he voted to abolish them. Now, with a Republican again in the White House, he's back on the filibuster train.

And here is Mitch McConnell laying the groundwork for the Reid Rule nuclear option, quite rightly explaining that there is not one single principled reason whatsoever to filibuster Neil Gorsuch: