To the surprise of absolutely no one, Senate Republicans dealt with the Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court by voting to exercise the “nuclear option” and repealing Senate rules allowing filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. The vote rolled over the Democratic filibuster like a Mack truck with no brakes, which coincidentally will now be a perfectly legal vehicle for trucking companies to require employees to drive. The rule change follows Democrats’ doing away with the filibuster for other cabinet and judicial appointees back in 2013, which specifically excluded confirmations to the Supreme Court because that’s supposed to be especially sacred. But now Supreme Court nominees can be confirmed with a simple majority vote, at least until the next time Republicans lose control of the Senate, at which point we expect the lame-duck session to pass new Senate rules that only permit Republicans to vote on nominees.
The procedural change clears the way for Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed by what Donald Trump will no doubt brag is a record-setting 56 votes. Republicans insist blowing up the filibuster was absolutely necessary to save the Senate from itself, since no Democrats would ever vote for a Trump Supreme Court nominee except maybe the four who have said they plan to vote for Gorsuch. Also, for some reason, the Democrats are definitely the bad guys doing obstruction here and wrecking the bipartisan comity of the Senate, since they didn’t quietly go along with Republican stonewalling of Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who at least can look himself in the mirror with a clean conscience. We are of course joking there; Neil Gorsuch, having determined that consciences were not envisioned by the Founders, never has any problems with his, either.
Still, Republicans insist on being the sorest possible winners, especially since some people unfairly accuse them of hypocrisy. Mitch McConnell cried that the Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch was simply unthinkable:
“This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said after describing Democratic opposition in the past to Judge Robert H. Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas. “And it cannot and it will not stand. There cannot be two sets of standards: one for the nominees of the Democratic president and another for the nominee of a Republican president.”
Silly leftists! Don’t you know that if a Democratic president nominates someone to the Supreme Court, they don’t really deserve even a hearing? Also, stop living in the past and obsessing over long-ago fights like the one over Garland, when there are far more current examples of Senate obstructionism like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, both of whom were denied their rightful place on the Court when Republicans voted against Bork and Thomas was confirmed on a 52-48 vote after allegations of sexual harassment. (Oh, heck, Gorsuch’s vote won’t even set the record for narrowest confirmation.)
The Senate is preparing for a vote on Gorsuch tomorrow; in one of the more breathtaking speeches leading up before the vote, Lindsey Graham fretted today about how the politics of the moment have made judicial confirmations so horrifying, and will lead to the eventual loss of the filibuster on ordinary laws and therefore the “death of the Senate.” He also wondered how, if he didn’t vote to kill the filibuster, he’d ever explain the unfairness of it all to his constituents:
I don’t know what I go home and tell people why Sotomayor and Kagan got on the Court, and Gorsuch couldn’t. Why President Obama was able to pick two people that were highly qualified, and Trump wasn’t able to pick one person who was highly qualified. We just can’t have it where one side gets their judges and the other side doesn’t.
You know, that would be a little more persuasive if Graham had noted that Barack Obama nominated three highly-qualified people to the Court, but only two of those nominations were considered real by Republicans.
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