President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, is headed to the Supreme Court. But not before Senate Democrats blow up the Senate’s traditions.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, bowing to the radical activist wing of his base, has promised a go-nowhere and will-accomplish-nothing filibuster of Judge Gorsuch nomination. It is an unprecedented move, and a desperate one at that, devoid of strategy. So why do it?
Mr. Schumer’s radical move forces Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to make a rules change to end the use of the filibuster related to Supreme Court nominees. To listen to the Democrats, one could get the impression that this change in the rules is a dramatic shift for the Senate – unprecedented, unprompted by events in recent history, and unprovoked by Democrats’ obstructionism. Please. The reality is that the Democrats are entirely to blame for the situation today. Yes, entirely.
Liberal media outlets are decrying the end of the Senate’s venerable traditions and putting the blame – where else? – squarely at the feet of Senate Republicans. The New York Times laments that the Republicans’ decision to end the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees is further proof of the “decaying standards of civility among lawmakers.”
A brief history lesson is in order.
Back in 2001, in President George W. Bush’s first term in office, Senate Democrats concocted a strategy to undermine President Bush by blocking his judicial nominees through the filibuster. Unwilling to accept the 2000 election results, Sen. Chuck Schumer led the way for the Senate Democrats to block supremely qualified judges from getting to the federal bench.
Senate Democrats forced more than 30 cloture votes on Bush nominations, and in the first three years alone of his first term in office, the Democrats forced a staggering – unprecedented and unheard of – 19 cloture votes on judicial nominees.
The Senate Democrats teamed up to filibuster Bush’s nominees time and time again. Sen. Chuck Schumer, for his part, voted a whopping 26 times to filibuster President Bush’s nominees.
In 2003, Sen. Schumer boasted: “Yes, we are blocking judges by filibuster. That is part of the hallowed process around here.” Really?
Nothing lasts forever in politics – and that is especially true when it comes to the Democrats’ position on the filibuster. In 2013, with President Obama in the White House and the Democrats holding a slight majority in the Senate, the Democrats moved swiftly to end the filibuster for nominations to lower courts and other executive branch nominees.
Did you catch that? The Democrats, who, a decade earlier, had engineered routine filibusters for nominations to the lower courts, abruptly ended the practice to suit their purposes. So, Sen. Schumer, filibustering judges really wasn’t a “hallowed process” in the Senate; it was simply the exclusive purview of the Democrats?
Now the political tides have shifted once again, and Democrats are lining up to filibuster President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent supporter of Senate tradition and rules, now must end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. It is a necessary move, and the unfortunate continuation of the process the Democrats started back in 2013 when they ended the filibuster for all judicial nominees to lower courts.
Back in 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate needed to “evolve” beyond the use of the filibuster for judicial nominees. His party today has forced that evolution one step further.
The fight over Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court has nothing to do with Gorsuch himself or his sterling record as a judge. In fact, this fight has very little to do with President Trump, or even to the Democrats’ overriding resistance to his agenda. This fight, plain and simple, has everything to do with the Senate Democrats’ history of blocking qualified judges, and their disregard for Senate tradition.
Recent election history confirms the weight Americans assign to judicial nominees and especially to the Supreme Court. Americans are also smart enough to understand which party is actually blowing up the Senate.
Senators Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester, both up for re-election in 2018, are from states (Missouri and Montana) that Trump won handily in November. Voters in both states should take note that their Senators are siding with Chuck Schumer’s radical agenda, simultaneously thumbing their noses at the election results and Senate tradition and decorum.
President Obama once famously remarked that “elections have consequences.” Indeed. But Democrats would do well to remember that sometimes elections are the consequence. November 2018 could end up being a devastating consequence for the Democrats’ fool’s errand in filibustering Judge Gorsuch.