As expected, Donald Trump has nominated conservative extremist Neil Gorsuch this evening to fill the Supreme Court seat which the Republican Senate has forcibly left vacant for more than a year. And as was also expected, Senate Democrats are already talking about taking whatever steps necessary to prevent Gorsuch from being confirmed — including hinting at using the filibuster to kill the nomination.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer fired the first salvo by tweeting the following immediately after Trump announced Gorsuch: “Gorsuch put corps over workers, been hostile toward women’s rights & been an ideolog. Skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice.” That skeptical sentiment continued when Senator Richard Blumenthal appeared on cable news and expressed his concern that Gorsuch has an extremist record, stating that “If I conclude that he is out of the mainstream… I will use every tool at my disposal to block his nomination.” But then Schumer took it much further.
Senator Schumer then released a statement asserting that Neil Gorsuch must receive at least sixty votes in the Senate in order to be considered confirmable. Although he didn’t use the “F” word, his mention of sixty votes was a clear filibuster threat. If the Democrats don’t like what they hear from Gorsuch during confirmation hearings (and they’re already made clear that they don’t approve of his extremist views), then one of them will start a filibuster. And with forty-eight Democrats in the Senate, they can easily come up with the forty votes required to prevent the Republicans from shutting the filibuster down.
It’s notable that the Senate Democrats are not invoking the tactic used by the Senate Republicans against President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, which was to refuse to even so much as hold hearings. But Garland was a moderate who would have given answers that resonated with the majority of Americans, so the Republicans didn’t want him speaking during hearings. In contrast, the Democrats appear to believe that by holding hearings on Gorsuch, he’ll be forced to answer questions which reveal his extremist views, thus turning the majority of the public against him — and gaining public support for the filibuster which will presumably take place near the end of the hearings.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report