April 06, 2017
Years from now, April 6, 2017 will be remembered as the day the Senate changed forever. After three decades of warring over judicial nominees, Democrats finally brought America to the brink in the fiercest political fight of a generation. "I had hoped that we could do what we had done in the past," Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said regretfully, "and that was reach some agreement. And we haven't, so it's permanent damage to the body."
In a clash more than four years in the making, Democrats broke with more than two centuries of tradition and blocked the vote of a Supreme Court nominee. And while it's never been done before, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) guaranteed it will never be done again. "This will be the first and last partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nomination" McConnell promised. He put his finger on the nuclear trigger -- the same procedural bomb Democrats dropped in 2013 -- and never looked back.
Of course, the Left has no one to blame for this brave new world but themselves. They put the Senate on this path in 2013, when they blew up the process to end the filibuster for lower court nominees. Now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would do anything to turn back time. "I wish we hadn't triggered the 'nuclear option'... [I] wish it hadn't happened," he admitted in January. Liberals have never hesitated to use their power -- or misuse it -- to achieve their ends. That includes rewriting the rules that require 60 votes to end the debate on a nomination. When Democrats controlled the Senate, they lowered the threshold to 51 -- a decision that came back to haunt them this morning, when Republicans reminded them that what goes around, comes around.
With complicated maneuvers and points of order, Senator McConnell established a new precedent for every future nominee to the highest court in America: a simple majority to end debate. While Republicans worked with Democrats to confirm Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, Democrats have proven that they're unwilling to put partisanship aside on Judge Gorsuch's nomination. In a statement before the showdown, McConnell -- like many senators -- expressed some regret that it had come to this. After 30 years of watching the process veer to a political breaking point the Founders never intended, the majority leader had little choice but to act.
"The Senate has considered the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for many weeks," Leader McConnell said. "We've seen his impressive credentials, we've reviewed his incredible record, we've heard glowing praise on a nearly daily basis from colleagues and students, from judges, newspaper editorials, from Democrats and from Republicans. Judge Gorsuch is independent, and he's fair. He's beyond qualified and he'll make a stellar addition to the Supreme Court. Hardly anyone in the legal community seems to argue otherwise, and yet our Democratic colleagues appeared poised to block this incredible nominee with the first successful partisan filibuster in America history. It would be a radical move, something completely unprecedented in the history of our Senate, and out of all proportion to the imminently qualified judge who is actually before us. But then again, this isn't really about the nominee anyway. The opposition to this particular nominee is more about the man that nominated him and the party he represents than the nominee himself. It's part of a much larger story: another extreme escalation in the Left's never-ending drive to politicize the courts and the confirmation process. It's a fight they have waged for decades with a singular aim, security raw power no matter the cost to the country or the institution. It underlies why this threatened filibuster cannot be allowed to success or to continue for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the Court, and for the sake of our country."
At least four Democrats tried to keep the bitter feud from reaching a point of no return. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) all voted to give Gorsuch an up-or-down vote. But they were four colleagues short of stopping the runaway train. For now, one thing is assured: Judge Gorsuch will get a fair shot at continuing the great originalist legacy of the late Antonin Scalia. And based on what FRC's Travis Weber has observed, no one could do the seat more proud. Check out his take on an overlooked trait of the 49-year-old circuit judge in The Hill, "The Bigly and Necessary Humility of Judge Gorsuch."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.