Senator Jeff Merkley from the great rainy state of Oregon took the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday at about 7 p.m. Eastern to protest the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and this morning, he was still going, only ending his marathon session just a short time ago, after 15 hours. Merkley’s office said he planned to “hold the floor and refuse to yield for as long as he is able to continue speaking,” and while he’d slowed down some since he started, his voice was still steady and he wasn’t hopping around with a full bladder. If Mitch McConnell is determined to do away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees tomorrow in order to confirm Gorsuch with only 56 votes, then at least Merkley gave the parliamentary maneuver a fine all-night wake.nobody cares about Garland anymore, but Merkley certainly does.) But there was plenty of time for Merkley to call attention to Gorsuch’s own terrible record, from his contention that a truck driver’s employer had every right to fire him because he chose not to freeze to death, to his bizarre notion that federal law only requires autistic kids to receive the most minimal education possible (in a case overturned by the Supreme Court during Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings), to a ruling against a leukemia patient who was fired after her university decided not to allow her to work from home during a flu epidemic on campus that could have killed her.
While he was speaking, the 24-hour news cycle handed Merkley another talking point: Shortly before midnight in the capital city, Politico published a story about allegations that Gorsuch had improperly used ideas, arguments, and whole passages from sources without properly citing them in his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Merkley said that was just one more reason not to bring an end to debate on Gorsuch:
Maybe that [cloture] motion should be withdrawn given that there’s more information now to analyze[.]
Relatively early on in the marathon, Merkley addressed the Republican claim that it simply wouldn’t do to confirm anyone to the Supreme Court during an election year by listing several Supreme Court justices who were confirmed in election years. (However, in all those cases, the nominees hadn’t been named by Barack Obama.) That table of those nominees, with Merrick Garland conspicuously listed in red with “NO ACTION” next to his name, was still up as Merkley spoke this morning:
Merkley therefore didn’t have a lot of patience for Republicans’ contention that “the people” should decide whether a president in the last year of his term should be able to name someone to the Court, saying, “That is a phony, phony, incorrect, salacious, insert your own adjective there argument.” We’re not sure about “salacious,” but what the hey, it’s a talkathon, and for that matter, some R’s probably did get a sexual thrill out of stealing a nomination from Barack Obama, because after all, he was Barack Obama.
Merkley didn’t come close to the all-time record for a one-person filibuster, held by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1957. We’d bet it’s pretty difficult to match the willpower and stamina of a flaming racist, after all. Those guys were motivated.
As his all-nighter became a daytime talkathon, Merkley even managed a bit of weary poetry, according to The Hill:
“It’s my understanding that the sun is coming up behind the Supreme Court. I was struck by how beautiful the weather was yesterday while the weather inside this building was so dark and gloomy,” Merkley said just after 6 a.m. “Partisan politics gave us a very, very ugly setting here.”
And as we wrap this piece up, Jeff Merkley just yielded the floor shortly after finishing his 15th hour, without resorting to reading Green Eggs and Ham or any silly tricks. Addressing Republicans’ complaints that Democrats have been obstructing the confirmation of a fine, well-qualified nominee, Merkley is still gobsmacked by the double standard: “It’s clear that Senate Republicans have created an alternative universe worthy of a Star Trek episode.”
All ahead, warp factor five, Mr. Merkley. And shields up; there’s likely to be a nuclear option ahead.
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