Ending the Filibuster for Nominations

Nuke the filibuster.

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court today on a straight party-line vote, 11-9.The nomination now heads to the floor and the Democrats say they will filibuster to prevent his appointment. According to the New York Times, Democrats now have the votes to prevent cloture, the cutting off of debate.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said, flatly, that Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed and that how he would be confirmed was up to the Democrats. That sounds like the nuclear option, ending the filibuster for nominations. I hope that happens.
The Senate, according to Thomas Jefferson, is meant to be “the saucer in which to cool the coffee.” The House, all of whose members are up for election every two years, tends to respond to every political whim. The Senate, with six-year terms and only one-third up for election every two years, is supposed to be more deliberative and take a wider view. (Whether it does, of course, is another story.)
The filibuster, which essentially means that sixty votes are needed to pass legislation, helps that happen. By empowering the minority, it forces legislation towards the center, as the majority, unless it has a very large majority, has to compromise with the minority to get things done. This is simple political horse trading: we’ll give you this if you give us that.
But with nominations, no compromising is possible. Either Judge Gorsuch is confirmed or he is not. No horses can change hands. So to have a filibuster with nominations is not to empower the minority, it is to give it a veto on all nominations and, in effect, to negate the results of the last election.  And in a democracy, according to Barack Obama, elections are supposed to have consequences.
So I look forward to the showdown this week and to seeing the end of the profoundly undemocratic filibuster for nominations. I only hope some misguided Republicans (Senator McCain, are you listening?) do not seek a “compromise,” such as letting Judge Gorsuch be confirmed in exchange for agreeing to keep the filibuster for any future Supreme Court nominations. That would be an enormous gift to the Democrats in return for absolutely nothing. Indeed, less than nothing if the next justice to retire is a liberal, which is likely. It would be a naked betrayal of the Republican Party.
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Ending the Filibuster for Nominations

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