Senate begins formally debating Gorsuch nomination

By Dave Andrusko

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

Following yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee 11-9 vote in favor of Judge Neil Gorsuch, the full Senate today began formally debating whether Judge Gorsuch will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

By the end of the day Monday, enough Democrats had signaled that they would oppose ending a filibuster to ensure that Republicans could not reach the 60 votes needed to “invoke cloture” (end the filibuster). Republicans currently control the Senate 52-48.

“With the opposition holding firm, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned on Tuesday that a Democratic filibuster would be ‘truly detrimental to this body and to the country,’” the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reported. “He faulted Democrats for ‘hurtling toward the abyss and taking the Senate with them. They need to reconsider.’”

McConnell also said he intended to stop the “unprecedented threat of a partisan filibuster,” according to the Associated Press.

“It should be unsettling to everyone that our colleagues across the aisle have brought the Senate to this new low,” he said. “Judge Gorsuch is independent, fair and has one of the most impressive resumes you will ever see.”

On March 31, National Right to Life sent a letter to members of the Senate “to urge your full support to achieve the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court — including support for the procedural steps necessary to accomplish this.” The letter, which designated the matter as one “of gravest import,” was signed by NRLC President Carol Tobias, Executive Director David N. O’Steen, and Senior Policy Advisor Douglas D. Johnson. The letter may be read here.

In the foreground of the debate is the reality that in 2013 the then-majority Democrats lowered the cloture threshold from 60 to a simple majority for all other presidential nominations. Republican senators could now do the same thing for nominations to the Supreme Court if 50 of them agree — the so-called “nuclear option.”

As a climax draws closer and closer, reporters and columnists and sympathetic professors are conjuring up even more spurious reasons Gorsuch (deemed “well-qualified” by the ABA) ought not be confirmed.

My favorite appeared in the New York Times where a professor of economics and public policy argued there is a new study out (there is always a “new study” when convenient). The “implication” is “that the appointment of a conservative jurist like Judge Gorsuch rather than a centrist-liberal like Merrick Garland would lead the other eight justices to vote in a relatively more conservative direction.”

So, first the lament was that Gorsuch was so young he’d seemingly be on the High Court forever. I’m guessing that the “ideal” candidate (from the Democrats’ point of view) would be someone in their seventies or eighties.

Now, we have to be on the lookout for peer-pressure (and I am not kidding. “Peer pressure” is the headline on Prof. Justin Wolfers’ New York Times op-ed). Thus, according to O’Keefe, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “said that an impasse could still be avoided if Trump and Senate Republicans negotiated with Democrats to select a new nominee,” all Republicans would need do is come up with a new nominee who couldn’t possibly influence the other justices in a conservative direction.

You can’t make this stuff up.