News & Politics

Senator Schumer Cracking the Whip on Gorsuch Filibuster

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this week that Democrats would filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court justice. At the time, there were several Democrats who appeared impressed with Gorsuch, who aced his confirmation hearing testimony. Committee Democrats couldn’t lay a hand on him.

At that time, it was thought that a handful of Democrats might break ranks, risk the wrath of the Democratic base, and vote to confirm Gorsuch. It was even hoped that enough senators would cross the line so that the nomination vote could avoid a filibuster.

But Schumer has been working intensely behind the scenes, whipping his caucus mercilessly. As a result, the number of Senate Democrats who might support the Gorsuch nomination is dwindling while opposition grows.

Reuters:

To date, 16 of the 48 Democratic senators have publicly backed their leader, Chuck Schumer, who said on Thursday he opposes confirming appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch. Others have yet to announce their intentions.

Gorsuch is headed toward a Senate Judiciary Committee vote, likely on April 3, on his nomination to the high court after a marathon four-day confirmation hearing this week.

After that, it is not yet clear how much of a fight Democrats will put up when the nomination is due for a final vote in the 100-member Senate, where there are 52 Republicans.

The Democratic opposition to Gorsuch could prompt a showdown in the Senate and delay the judge’s confirmation but ultimately the Republicans are likely to win that fight and avoid another setback in Congress for Trump who suffered a blow on Friday when lawmakers pulled a major healthcare bill.

I would say the odds of the GOP nuking the filibuster are pretty close to 100%. Not only is Gorsuch supported by all 53 Republican senators, but the failure of the ObamaCare repeal makes a Trump victory on Gorsuch vital to his presidency.

Is there still hope that enough Dems will cross over and vote to confirm? Not a realistic one — not with Schumer’s personal appeals to stay with the caucus on the filibuster and the rabid Democratic base baying at the fence sitters’ heels.

Conservative activists were targeting ten Democrats running for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won in the presidential election as possible “yes” votes for Gorsuch among Democrats.

Of that number, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin have already announced their opposition to the nomination. The other seven, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have yet to announce their plans.

Another Democratic senator under pressure from both sides on Gorsuch is Michael Bennet, who represents Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado. Bennet has yet to announce his position.

Republicans are also hopeful that some Democratic members of the judiciary committee, including Chris Coons of Delaware and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, might be wary of blocking a vote on the nominee. Their spokesmen did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it would be an “unprecedented, even nuclear step” to require a 60-vote threshold before the Senate can vote on the nominee.

“There has never, in the history of the Republic, ever been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee,” he added.

Nor will there be one here. Schumer figures he has very little to lose. Forcing the GOP to go nuclear will be a minor victory, but it will cheer the base that has been energized by GOP failure on the ObamaCare repeal.

The minority leader wants to position the party for the 2018 midterms, where he hopes to save several Senate seats that might otherwise flip.

With the GOP’s help on ObamaCare’s repeal, he’s already off to a good start.