Thursday, April 6, 2017

US Senate goes nuclear in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing. Reuters. 

Senate Republicans have used the "nuclear option" after the Senate Democrats successfully filibustered the vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Reuters. Gorsuch was voted for 55-45, which is five votes short of the 60 necessary to stop a filibuster. The GOP then held another vote for overturning the filibuster rule that passed on party lines 52-48. With the filibuster gone, Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed early Friday morning. With Gorsuch confirmed and a few more Supreme Court justices likely to retire during Trump's turn, the Supreme Court will likely remain conservative for a generation. 

My Comment:
I'm of two minds here. One the one hand I think there is a real downside in getting rid of this rule. There was a reason why we had it and it was to protect minority opinions. The filibuster ensured that only change that supported on a bipartisan basis would be enacted. That's a major downside to using this option and removing the filibuster. I'm not exactly happy about that since I do believe minority opinions should be protected. 

After all, it's likely that the GOP won't control the senate forever. Though for the time being I think it is safe, given how disorganized the Democrats are and how much more favorably the 2018 elections are for the GOP, that won't last forever. The future is a lot less clear and what happens if the Democrats gain control of the Senate in 2020 or 2022? And there is always a chance that the GOP could collapse and the Democrats could take control even earlier than that. We would have little in the way to stop them from doing things we didn't like. 

On the other hand the upside in doing this is obvious. The GOP has a real chance of taking semi-permanent control of the Supreme Court. With Gorsuch on the bench, the ideological makeup will be similar to what it was before Scalia died. If the Senate GOP had failed to confirm Gorsuch, the court would be stuck at a 4-4 tie for the foreseeable future. 

This would be a massive advantage for the GOP and one that is going to grow in time. The makeup of the Supreme Court is fairly old. Three of the justices are older then 75. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84, Anthony Kennedy is 80 and Stephen Breyer is 78. None of them are likely to make it through Donald Trump's 1st term, let alone his second. Breyer and Ginsburg are both on the liberal side of the court and if replaced could give the conservative side a 7-2 advantage for a very long time. 

I have to think that the Democrats made a mistake by forcing this. Though I don't doubt that they were under pressure from their base, they probably would have been better served in confirming Gorscuch. Though undoubtedly conservative, he is more moderate then some other choices Trump and the GOP could have made. I am guessing Democrats will regret it when the next justice retires/dies and the GOP comes up with someone like Ted Cruz for the next justice. They will have no way to even oppose any such justice. 

I do think that this action will have an extreme effect on further Supreme Court cases. Right now it's just status quo ante, which already favored the GOP. But given how long justices serve and what the ideological makeup of the court is likely to be, we can expect favorable decisions on things like gun rights. 

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