As the days tick by, the debate over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is becoming even more tightly contested. While the “Judiciary Committee narrowly backed the 49-year-old appellate court judge on Monday,” according to the Associated Press, the “Democrats secured the 41 votes to try to block the choice on a filibuster.”
With no sign of concession from the other side, the Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “is likely to change the parliamentary rules for Supreme Court nominees, lowering the threshold to a simple majority.” This is the so-called “nuclear option,” named so because the Republicans technically don’t have to play ball with the Democrats to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
If the Republicans have such a weapon, some conservatives have argued that they should deploy it immediately and cut the charade in Washington. These Supreme Court nominations will carry enormous leverage well into the future. Thus, it makes sense to utilize the nuclear option to virtually guarantee a conservative Supreme Court for possible decades.
However, the nuclear option is no option at all. Instead, it is a concession — first, that Washington is intractably partisan, and second, that it will snowball into a regrettable precedent.
This is not the first time that the nuclear option was invoked. It was the Democrats that “pushed through a rules change lowering the vote threshold on all nominees except for the Supreme Court from 60 to a simple majority.” Ironically, Senator McConnell responded that the Democrats will regret the decision because the nuclear option could cut both ways.
The Democrats are getting a taste of their own medicine. However, if McConnell goes nuclear regarding Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, he could setup wild consequences for the U.S. long after he’s dead and buried. In prior administrations, Supreme Court nominations required bipartisan cooperation, irrespective of who was in the White House.
With the nuclear option, you can kiss that bipartisanship goodbye. All that would be needed to appoint Supreme Court justices is a simple majority. That’s great if your party is in power. But we all know that politics is an ebb-and-flow dynamic. No one party stays in power forever, which is the beauty of America.
The problem is that President Trump isn’t doing so great in approval ratings. That implies a difficult election cycle during the upcoming midterm. Thus, whatever victory is invoked now with the nuclear option could really come back to haunt the Republicans.