There seems to be a lot of writers on both the right and the left wondering whether or not the GOP will use the “nuclear option” to push through Donald Trump’s cabinet, lower court, and most importantly his Supreme Court selections. I’ll go ahead and declare that it will certainly happen and I’m willing to eat a bug on live TV if it doesn’t.
Briefly, the nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate Majority Leader to override a rule. In this case, Mitch McConnell would allow for confirmations to happen with only a majority vote, bypassing filibusters. This has been applied in the past for cabinet and lower court nominees. As for the Supreme Court which has never had the nuclear option applied, there can be as much debate as anyone wants but at the end of the day Mitch will push the button.
As Dan Spencer pointed out, Democrats will pay for obstructing Trump. They were essentially threatening to do what the Republicans are now likely to do. They made this threat because they assumed Hillary Clinton would be President and the Democrats would squeeze out a majority in the Senate, so they warned Republicans ahead of time that they would go nuclear if the GOP tried to filibuster her SCOTUS picks.
Of course, they also used the maneuver to ram through President Obama’s picks in 2013 ahead of what they rightly anticipated to be a loss of their majority the following year.
These are great reasons for the GOP to take advantage of their majority and President, but there’s an even more important reason that makes me certain it will happen. The Democrats will try to save face by opposing everything and everyone they can. This is a given. The Republicans will be pressured to use every tool in their utility belts to ram through Trump’s appointments because they know that if they don’t, Trump and his minions will go after them. Breitbart, Drudge, Hannity, and their ilk will insult the weakness of GOP leadership if Trump’s nominees face a smidgen of a delay. From the Republican Senators’ perspectives, getting on Trump’s and the alt-right’s bad side is tantamount with ending their careers in the Senate.
Whether or not Trump and his cronies can wield that much power remains to be seen, but the threat alone will be enough to make Mitch and co. line up accordingly. They will do what they Democrats did in order to get Trump’s cabinet through with no trouble. They will fill the lower courts as quickly as possible. They will even make the unprecedented move of using the nuclear option on his Supreme Court nominees.
Let’s put this debate to rest. It’s going to happen. The Democrats do not have an option of backing down; if they don’t attempt filibusters they will be despised by their own people. The Republicans will go nuclear because a filibustered Trump appointment will paint them as being too weak to keep up with Trump’s plans. The only question at this point is who will go down in the history books as the first nuclear option Supreme Court Justice.