Senator Chuck Schumer said today that not only will vote against the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but that he also plans to filibuster the confirmation. Doing so would require that the Senate would have to invoke a 60-vote cloture movement to close debate. The fact that he isn’t going to vote for the confirmation is no surprise, Schumer is obviously going to work against anything President Trump puts forward. What I have a problem with and where I see a problem is the filibuster, in reason and in practice.
I could talk for quite some time about why Gorsuch would be fantastic addition on the Supreme Court, but for time’s sake I’ll skip that. Let’s address the primary reason that Democrats oppose him. After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat. Senator Mitch McConnell and the other Senate Republicans refused to even give him a hearing, claiming that the seat should be filled by an appointee of the next president. I do find that very unfair, Garland was a well qualified moderate, and President Obama was well within his power to nominate him. He should have at least had a hearing.
That being said, just because what happened to Judge Garland was unfair, that does not mean the Gorsuch should receive the same treatment. He is incredibly well qualified and would interpret the laws as they are stated, without injecting his personal opinions into rulings or legislating from the bench. What happened to Garland was wrong, and this plan to give Gorsuch a similar treatment is wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right.
The other issue with the idea of a filibuster is that it is incredibly short-sighted. If a filibuster happens, Mitch McConnell would be all too happy to invoke the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules to allow the confirmation to be rammed through with 51 votes. It is likely that in the next 4 years that another justice will have to be replaced, many are pretty old, including the liberal Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. Wouldn’t it be smarter to save the fight for then? Instead of fighting a conservative appointment to a conservative seat, why not fight a conservative appointment to a liberal seat?
By filibustering now, Schumer and the other Senate Democrats throw away their chances of fighting future confirmations, ones that may be way more controversial then this one. And all in the name of opposing Trump. If Gorsuch’s confirmation is not filibustered, it would not mean that the Democrats caved to Trump, it would mean that they would be saving their power for a future, more reasonable fight.
Again, what happened to Garland was unfair, but that does not mean that Gorsuch should receive the same treatment. Doing so would throw away the Democrat’s chances of fighting future Trump appointments. Is this the hill they really want to die on?