National Politics

Chuck Schumer Threatens SCOTUS Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) announced today he will filibuster President Trump’s US Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. This is a dangerous shot across President Trump’s bow that could end up boomeranging badly on the Democrats.

The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch is to replace the seat on the Supreme Court left vacant by the untimely death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the most conservative member of the court. In essence, since the death of Scalia, the court has been missing one conservative. With Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, President Trump is simply replacing that conservative voice, i.e. not making a net change on the Supreme Court. Arguably it is the next Supreme Court vacancy that could change the trajectory of the Supreme Court for the decade or two.

Would the Democrats be wiser and more strategic to play a long game and wait for the next Supreme Court vacancy? By using the filibuster now to block Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation, the Democrats are wasting the biggest gun they have, absent Democrats regaining control of the Senate.

The “Nuclear Option”

More importantly, using the filibuster now, Schumer could forever change the way Supreme Court Justices are confirmed in the Senate. In 2013, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used what has become known as the “nuclear option.” Reid used the rules of the Senate and the then Democrat majority to change the Senate rules to block filibusters for the confirmation of Cabinet-level positions and lower federal court appointments.

Democrat Harry Reid’s change of the Senate rules back in 2013 blocked filibusters for all lower federal court and Cabin nominees. Confirmation had always been by a simple majority of the Senate for all federal appointments. However, it took two-thirds of the Senate to stop a filibuster, which means if a nominee was filibustered, unless there were at least 60 votes to stop it, the nomination would essentially be blocked forever.

By using an obscure set of parliamentary procedures to block filibusters with a simple majority, Reid opened the door to changing the way the Senate confirms appointments forever. In 2013, when Reid exercised the “nuclear option,” he did not extend the “nuclear option” to US Supreme Court Justices. Therefore, a filibuster for a Supreme Court nominee still requires two-thirds of the Senate to stop it. The Republicans with only 52 members in the Senate, would not have enough votes to block Schumer’s filibuster, and Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment would be lost.

Majority Leader McConnell’s Dilemma

According to The Washington Post, with Senate Minority Leader Schumer vowing to filibuster Judge Gorsuch’s appointment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is left with two choices: (1) find 8 Democrats who would be willing to vote with the 52 Republicans to break Schumer’s filibuster, or (2) “Go nuclear” and extend the “nuclear option” Democrats started in 2013 to Supreme Court nominations.

In January, President Trump urged Senate Majority Leader McConnell to “go nuclear,” if necessary.

The Washington Post points out, if Schumer and the Democrats force Majority Leader McConnell’s hand into using the “nuclear option” to forever block filibusters for future Supreme Court nominees, “the Democrats are disarming their future selves from their best tool to block Supreme Court nominees down the road — say, when moderate and liberal vacancies open up and give Trump a chance to change the balance of power in the court for decades.”


To Top