GOP Goes Nuclear
The GOP Senate leadership appears poised to take a dangerous and unwise step this week. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to change the 100 year old Senate procedural rule governing filibusters and Supreme Court nominees. If Democrats insist upon 60 votes to confirm, McConnell promises to change the rules to a simple majority.
Since Republicans have already a Senate majority, why shouldn’t they change the rules?
The Supreme Court is a life time appointment and is already divided along ideological lines. Democrats argue that Judge Gorsuch, while well qualified in every way, has a judicial perspective which is out of the mainstream. Democrats feel a Justice Gorsuch would approach each case with a preconceived ultra conservative perspective.
Republicans respond that Gorsuch is in the mainstream and more importantly views the Constitution (as originally conceived). It is not clear how or with whom Judge Gorsuch verifies or confirms his interpretation of original intent.
So again, why shouldn’t Republicans change the rules?
Democrats argue a Supreme Court nominee ought to get more than a simple majority given the importance of the position. Competency, good character, and an impartial mind would seem to be the desired requisites. With Judge Gorsuch, the disagreement seems to be hanging upon whether Goruch can be impartial. Hmmm.
The Gorsuch vote will underline the extreme positions of the two major parties. Conservatives who now dominate the Republican Party seek to reduce the size of government, eliminate (or at least vastly reduce) entitlements, and reverse all sorts of social changes made over the past 50 years.
Democrats largely under progressive influence seek to interpret the Constitution in modern terms reflecting over two hundred years of advancements in science, medicine, and experience. There was no internet, no antibiotics, or no airplanes/automobiles/trains in the lives of our founding fathers. The hand delivered letter, death from common illnesses, and foot or horse transportation were the norms of our founding fathers’ time. As a consequence, Democrats prefer a Justice who sees the world as they do.
The Gorsuch vote is the next step in a series of regrettable failure in Senate leadership. Conservative groups had sought during former President Obama’s term to limit how many Judges Obama could appoint. The GOP reasoning was that with fewer appointments, there would be fewer progressive leaning members of the judiciary when it came time to nominate higher court judges and ultimately Justices. To this end, Republicans filibustered Obama nominees and blocked consideration. In frustration, then Senate Leader Harry Reid changed the Senate filibuster rules on most Presidential appointees to a simple majority to end the filibuster… except for the Supreme Court where Reid left in place the 60 vote threshold.
Republicans were furious and took the next step of not even considering Judge Merritt Garland following Justice Scalia’s death. As previously done filibustering former President Obama’s nominee, Republicans upped the anti and did not even hold hearings for Judge Garland.
It is possible that Republicans think they are taking prudent action. Republicans may be so focused on what they feel is the proper ideological direction that “the ends justify the means”. Republicans, if so, could not be more wrong. History has shown that the party in power changes like the leaves on a tree. Regardless of which party is in power, voters tend to tire of that party and vote them out. Does it take much effort to think what the next Democrat controlled Senate might be like?
There is an even more serious consequence on the table if Senator McConnell changes the rules. There is no reason for either party to feel it necessary to nominate a “competent, good character, and impartial” person in the future. With the confirmation assured, why not nominate Sheldon Adelson or any other wildly rich donor, or why not Jeff Sessions if all that’s needed is a straight party vote?
Democracy has been tried by many countries around the world. In far too many, democracy has a given way to authoritarian regimes of some form or another. America’s secret has been a robust balance of powers held together by functioning checks and balances.
Merritt Garland should never have been passed over and Neil Gorsuch deserves an up or down vote (with no filibuster). Unfortunately Garland was denied a fair vote and now it is Gorsuch’s role to take the blow back.
A wise GOP leadership would accept the blow back from their overt blocking of President Obama’s nominations and move on to their next nominee.
Instead it appears US politics are headed tribal.
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