Still smarting over GOP refusal to bring the name of Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, up for a vote, petulant Democrats are now vowing to block anybody whom Trump names tomorrow night:
Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.
With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump’s nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.
“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”
It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.
Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote. Merkley’s party leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has said he will fight “tooth and nail” any nominee who isn’t “mainstream.”
So the battle lines are now drawn. The easiest way to deal with this, of course, would be for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to simply nuke the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, thus finishing the job Harry Reid started in 2013. Alternatively, Trump can bring a lot of pressure to bear on the Senate Democrats, given that many of them will be running for re-election next year from states that Trump carried handily in the election.
Chuck Schumer’s vow to fight against a nominee who isn’t “mainstream” is risible, given that the Democrat from New York’s definition of “mainstream” is “leftist/progressive.” And the notion that the late Antonin Scalia’s seat was somehow “stolen” from Democrats, as Merkley (who’s he?) alleges ignores the long-held political truth that politics ain’t beanbag.
Republicans immediately dinged Merkley as a hypocrite for being a leading advocate of changing the Senate rules four years ago. “When Democrats were in the majority, Sen. Merkley wanted to end filibusters. But I guess he only meant when Democrats are in the majority and in control of the White House,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Trump and the GOP need to face down Schumer and the Democrats on this one without flinching. Schumer’s habitual position is always at your throat and in front of a TV camera, and left unchecked he will only grow nastier and more obnoxious as Trump’s first term progresses. He needs to be at Trump’s feet, with dispatch.