Following the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Republican senators broke Senate custom and abdicated their constitutional duties by refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, Barrack Obama’s pick to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. When Donald Trump won the presidency, the Republican strategy paid off: Garland was cast aside, and Neil Gorsuch, an extreme conservative, was nominated in his stead.
Now, after four days of confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats are vowing to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination. Reports the Washington Post: “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced he would oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court “and join other Democrats in filibustering the nomination, making it likely that the judge will struggle to find the support needed to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.”
Continued the Post, “Schumer said Gorsuch ‘was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check’ on President Trump and is ‘not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.’”
Republicans have threatened to exercise the “nuclear option” to force Gorsuch through; that is, they have warned that they will eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court picks altogether should Democrats filibuster Gorsuch. This would mark an extremely dangerous power grab by Republicans, as it would eliminate what is perhaps the most important tool available to the minority party in the Senate. Senate Democrats have clearly determined that Gorsuch’s far-right views on abortion, corporations, and gay rights pose a significant enough threat to the judiciary to risk the chance that Republicans will employ the nuclear option. Time will tell if the Democrats’ gambit will prove successful.