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Filibuster Folly

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The WSJ has this editorial on Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer's decision to call for a filibuster of the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

On what ground is the drastic action of a filibuster called for?  The hearings have turned up nothing that makes this nominee any more deserving of such a blockade than just about anyone a Republican president could nominate.  He is an originalist, of course, which is exactly what the people who vote for President Trump wanted.

Sen. Schumer says Judge Gorsuch was "groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs."  I don't know what he means by "groomed," and the "one inch" remark makes no sense at all.  There is such a variation of viewpoints within the Federalist Society that everyone in it has a wide space of viewpoint from lots of other people in it.

The worst problem is that the confirmation process is getting worse instead of better.  The political pendulum has swung back and forth since the end of World War II, but since the 1980s every time the Republicans have had the White House the Democrats have taken the polarization and partisanship of judicial confirmations to a new level. 
During the Reagan and Bush, Sr. Administrations, their attacks on Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas sunk to unprecedented depths.  During the Bush, Jr. Administration, the Democrats routinely used the filibuster against nominees for the lower federal courts.  Republicans had previously used it only once, against LBJ's crooked crony.  In the most notorious incident, the Democrats filibustered the nomination of the well-qualified Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit because he was Hispanic and possible Supreme Court material, and they could not bear the thought that a Republican President might appoint the first Hispanic Justice.

Republicans responded when the tables were turned, but they did not take things to new levels, and they did not pull anything like the attacks on Bork and Thomas.

Now we have a filibuster of a well-qualified, squeaky-clean, mainstream conservative nominee to the Supreme Court for no reason other than his being mainstream conservative.  He is certainly no further from the middle of the road than President Obama's nominees were.  If this action were to stand and if Republicans were to do the same thing when the tables were turned, then who could be confirmed?  Would we be limited to people sitting right smack on the yellow line in the ideological center?

Truly, Senator Schumer has left the Republicans no choice but to finish the "nuclear option" job and extend the no-filibuster rule to Supreme Court nominations.  That may come back to bite us if some future President nominates another crooked crony, so let us pray that doesn't happen.

2 Comments

I totally agree. Gorsuch, like Garland, is eminently qualified to sit on the Court. As an Independent, I believe it would be a mistake for the Dems to filibuster his confirmation. But they may have a different political calculus.

Anyone wish to venture a guess on what the potential benefit to the Dems as a party, or to any particular Dem (such as Schumer), is in a filibuster in light of the nuclear option?

What is the potential downside?

My gut tells me that the Dems won't filibuster.

I agree that this is a miscalculation. It may be pleasing to the base, but the Democratic base has been losing ground for ten years and basically cannot get to 50% of the national vote without the uniquely talented Obama on the ballot.

This filibuster is, and will be seen by the public to be, partisanship run amok. Your comparison to Garland is, in one important way, apt. Gorsuch is, indeed, a conservative version of Garland.

Filibustering a SCOTUS nominee is very unusual in our history. It seems to me, as it does to McConnell, that if the Dems are filibustering this guy, they will filibuster anyone a Republican (not just Trump) would nominate. That essentially gives McConnell no choice but to end the filibuster, which is what's going to happen.

Among other things, as I pointed out in an entry earlier this week, what this means is that Trump is now free -- with the filibuster about to be dead -- to nominate a more doctrinaire conservative next time (e.g., a Republican version of Ginsburg). But the Dems brought it on themselves -- and a Republican version of Ginsburg would be fine with me, just for the record.

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