Sunday, April 2, 2017

More Gorsuch (Oh no!)

I hope you'll forgive my continued attention to the vote totals for Gorsuch.  But this vote-wrangling could set up a major confrontation in the Senate soon.

Two interesting announcements over the past few days:

The first is that Missouri's Claire McCaskill has announced that she will filibuster Gorsuch.  This is a significant change for the Missouri Democrat, who styled herself as a moderate when she first ran for the Senate and said in 2006 that she would not support a filibuster of Samuel Alito and would even vote to confirm John Roberts.  Now, Senator McCaskill will filibuster a nominee who doesn't seem any more out of the mainstream than Alito or Roberts.

What's interesting about this decision is that Senator McCaskill acknowledged earlier in March how counterproductive a Gorsuch filibuster would be.  In a leaked recording of her meeting with some major Democratic donors, Senator McCaskill made the following comments:
“The Gorsuch situation is really hard. There are going to be people in this room that are going to say, ‘No, no, no. You cannot vote for Gorsuch,’ ” McCaskill said in the recording. “Let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that we turn down Gorsuch, that there are not eight Democrats that vote to confirm him and therefore there’s not enough to put him on the Supreme Court. What then?”

She pointed to the list of potential nominees that Trump released before the election to galvanize conservative support. “By the way, Gorsuch was one of the better ones,” McCaskill quipped.

“So they pick another one off the list and then they bring it over to the Senate and we say no, no, no, this one’s worse. And there’s not enough votes to confirm him. They’re not going to let us do that too long before they move it to 51 votes,” she said.
So why is McCaskill supporting a filibuster when she foresees these consequences?  (More on that in a second...)

The second announcement is that Joe Donnelly of Indiana will vote for Gorsuch.

This means that 3 Democrats--Donnelly, Manchin, and Heitkamp--have announced their support for Gorsuch.  One senator from a heavily Trump state remains publicly undecided (Montana's Jon Tester).  According to Decision Desk HQ's count, other unannounced votes include Michael Bennet (Colo.), Chris Coons (Del.), Pat Leahy (Vt.), Angus King (Maine), and Mark Warner (Va.). Some other folks report that Ben Cardin (Md.) and Dianne Feinstein as up in the air about filibustering Gorsuch.

So is a nuclear stand-off guaranteed?  Maybe--but only maybe.  Gorsuch needs 8 Democrats to agree to cloture, and he already has 3.  There are at least 6 Democrats outstanding.  One is from a solid Republican state (Tester), one presents himself as a postpartisan independent (King), and one is from Gorsuch's home state (Bennet).  So all 3  2 of these could vote for cloture.

That would leave Gorsuch in need of 2 3 more.  Many of the remaining undecided votes on filibustering Gorsuch are broadly popular in safely Democratic states.  "Progressive" institutions like Pat Leahy could likely weather a primary challenge.  Senators Feinstein and Cardin are up for reelection in 2018, but some observers think that they may decide to retire from the Senate rather than run for reelection.  Thus, the handful of unannounced senators on the left side of the Democratic caucus could decide to vote for cloture in order to spare some colleagues (like McCaskill) the risk of a primary challenge while also preventing a nuclear stand-off over Gorsuch.  (One reason for the delay in votes could be negotiations among these Democratic senators to see who has to risk the wrath of "resistance" activists by voting for Gorsuch.)

Thus, there's a chance--a chance--that enough Democrats could vote for Gorsuch in order to avoid a nuclear stand-off and to preserve some leverage for the minority party during Supreme Court nominations.

UPDATE: Jon Tester just announced that he would vote against cloture on Gorsuch.  The "Doomsday Clock" for the nuclear option gets closer to midnight.  There's still a path to avoid a nuclear stand-off, but it gets narrower.

1 comment:

  1. To hold a weapon and be afraid upon real provocation to use it, is to possess no weapon.

    ReplyDelete