Donald Trump won over a host of skeptical social conservatives last year when he produced a list of judges from which he would select the next Supreme Court Justice. The death of Antonin Scalia made the 2016 election intensely important – a Hillary Clinton pick would have taken the highest court out of conservative control for the first time in decades. Now, regardless of Trump’s actual performance as president, many voters in the evangelical wing will be happy to have avoided that gloomy outcome.
But pushing one of Trump’s picks through the Senate may not be as easy as it appears. Democrats are inclined to fight Trump already; when it comes to the Supreme Court, though, they are especially anxious to cause trouble. Republicans sat on Obama’s selection for nearly a full year, and Democrats see this as payback time. They’ll filibuster any nominee who hasn’t personally performed an abortion just to get the GOP back for Merrick Garland.
“We want to wait and see a nominee,” Sen. Dick Durbin told CNN. “And if that nominee is not middle of the road, I’m afraid there’s going to be resistance. I can’t tell you every Democrat feels the same way, but enough of us do to make the point.”
Of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t have to stand aside and let the Democrats keep the seat vacant. If he chooses, he can invoke the so-called nuclear option and lower the bar for a nominee to a simple majority. That would be inflammatory and the media would treat it like a fiasco, but it may turn out to be the only Republican path forward. If the alternative is letting the seat stay open until all the Democrats are thrown out of the Senate (or picking a “middle of the road” nominee), then it may be necessary.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said Democrats would look ridiculous if they filibustered Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, seeing how irate they became over Garland.
“You got to remember how much of a fuss they made after Scalia died that we weren’t going to take it up because we were going to let the people take a vote. So between that and the election they can’t complain about a longer period of time now,” Grassley said.
Sure they can! And they’ll have the media cheering them on.
Hopefully, Republicans don’t let themselves become a victim of the expected bad press. The stakes, in this case, are much too high.