The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday, filling the critical ninth seat that has been vacant for over a year and capping an unrestrained debate that saw Republicans utilized Harry Reid’s 2013 Senate rule change that changed the way the chamber operates in order to overcome what they described as an unprecedented Democratic filibuster against a Supreme Court Nominee.
The 54-45 vote, in which three Democrats crossed party lines to support the appeals court justice, will restore a 5-4 conservative tilt on the bench.
“Democrats’ Gorsuch filibuster accomplished more for Republicans than it did for Democrats”
Now that the judicial confirmation filibuster in the U.S. Senate has been obliterated, it’s time to look at the political fallout going forward. And for Democrats, the news is all bad. Here are three reasons why Democrats just made a really dumb mistake by playing politics (poorly) and filibustering Judge Neil Gorsuch.
1. The GOP is now free to put Scalia type Conservatives throughout the federal judiciary
The argument for years as to why Republicans needed stealth Supreme Court candidates like David Souter, Anthony Kennedy, and John Roberts (who have all gone on to be disappointments to varying degrees) was the filibuster. The GOP cowered to the threat of filibuster by Democrats and nominated justices that would not have been Conservatives first choice.
However, since it is no longer necessary to get 60 votes to confirm federal judicial appointments. There is no need anymore to “play games” during confirmation hearings… and there is nothing the Democrats can do about it. At least for the next two years until the mid-term elections in 2018.
Where this will really be a real benefit is in the federal circuit and district courts, which need an overhaul after decades of stockpiling progressives.
2. Republicans never had the moral fortitude to filibuster Democrat judicial nominees anyway.
There’s literally no trade-off here for Democrats, because we all know Republicans weren’t going have the stones to engage in partisan filibuster in the future anyway. The GOP is the party that actually nominates for president the people who support — and vote for — the Democrats’ most progressive judicial nominees after all (see John McCain).
So this isn’t a case of “what goes around comes around” that benefits Democrats in the future; this is being too smart by half, and negotiating against yourself. In other words, this is a case of Democrats tactically acting like Republicans for once. They needlessly cornered the GOP into a position that forced them to actually draw a line in the sand, which isn’t exactly the GOP’s thing. (They ain’t called the “surrender caucus” for nothing.)
By doing so, Democrats helped set a precedent that will only benefit Republicans from here. For they gave Republicans leverage they never would have asserted on their own, while at the same time Democrats gave away leverage they’ve had all along.
3. The Democrat monkeyshines had done nothing to elevate themselves politically
Even if you think the “Stand with Rand” and “Make DC Listen” filibusters by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, respectively, were publicity stunts doomed to fail, at the very least both of those events inspired the GOP grassroots and elevated the national profiles of two of the party’s emerging stars.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the Gorsuch filibuster didn’t even do that. For example, the lackluster attempt by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., at filibustering this week didn’t generate nearly the attention Paul and Cruz’s did, even from a more-than-sympathetic media.
At the very least, if you’re going to contrive political theater, have someone who excites your base and could be your future standard-bearer as the face of it. Instead, Democrats came out of a fake fight without any real stars to rally behind. A missed opportunity, especially with the country already seeming to start to tire of President Trump.
In short, the Democrats’ Gorsuch filibuster accomplished more for Republicans than it did for Democrats, because it accomplished nothing for the latter. If this is what the “resistance” looks like, it’s going to have to try a lot harder.