Dems may be ready to deal on Gorsuch
Democrats may be ready to throw in the towel in opposing the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be associate justice of the Supreme Court. According to Politico, several sources are reporting that a group of Democrat senators may be willing to allow the Gorsuch confirmation to go through on the Senate floor in exchange for a pledge from Republicans not to get rid of the filibuster. Their thinking is that if President Trump has another opportunity to name a Supreme Court justice, they want the option of blocking any nominee.
Another vacancy would be far more consequential, as it would determine the balance of power between liberals and conservatives on the court.
If Democrats move ahead with the plan – it's still in the early discussion phase – it would require buy-in from some Republicans, but not necessarily Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or his top deputies. At least three rank-and-file GOP members would have to pledge not to vote to unilaterally change the Senate rules through a majority-only vote later in Trump's term – the so-called nuclear option.
Cobbling together a group of senators from opposing parties to take such a stand would be difficult, given the long-running partisan war over confirming judges and pressure from the left to deny Gorsuch confirmation. But some Democrats are worried enough about the Senate losing its unique minority rights that they've begun kicking the tires on the potential for a new bipartisan "gang."
The current talks are limited to about a half-dozen Democratic lawmakers. They haven't made an offer to Republicans yet, and Democratic leaders wouldn't support one.
Democrats familiar with the effort requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter that divides the caucus. Some liberals are aiming to block Gorsuch, while others are worried about the electoral prospects for 10 senators up for reelection next year in states won by Trump if they're seen as obstructing the president's court pick.
Any move to save the filibuster would be reminiscent of the "Gang of 14," a group that included Democrats who agreed to confirm some of President George W. Bush's stalled judicial nominees as Republicans pledged not to support a rules change. Just three members of that 2005 collection are still in the Senate.
"It's a really tough situation, and they're going to have to find their way through it because that 60-vote threshold is important for the Supreme Court," said former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a member of the Gang of 14.
In truth, Senate Democrats are between a rock and a hard place on the Gorsuch nomination. Not only did Gorsuch do extremely well in the confirmation hearings, but he has given Democrats no earthly reason to oppose him except partisan spite. Since the GOP and President Trump will almost certainly nuke the filibuster if they can't get the 60 votes needed to confirm Gorsuch, the thinking of some Democrat senators is to run away and fight another day.
But that strategy carries its own risks – most notably that the Democrat base's heads would explode. The rabid left is bound and determined to hold Democratic senators' feet to the fire on opposing Gorsuch, and any movement toward a deal with the GOP will be met with outrage and threats of primarying the traitors.
But all this may be avoided anyway. Gorsuch may get several Democrat votes, which would put him over the 60-vote threshold. Majority Leader McConnell would have to be dead sure that he had enough votes to defeat a filibuster before calling the nomination to the floor. Failing that, McConnell would almost certainly employ the nuclear option to ram the Gorsuch nomination through.
Democrats are going to lose on this nomination. Now they have to decide how to put the best face on it.