Mitch McConnell is often frustrating to the point of wanting to scream. However, there are instances of McConnell being pretty slick in the way he plays somebody. Right now he is playing Charles Schumer like a grand piano and Schumer knows it.
Some Democrats are lining up to vote against Neil Gorsuch in two ways. One, they’re going to vote against cloture, the procedural vote that allows the Gorsuch nomination to move to the floor where a second vote — the confirmation vote — takes place. Several Democrats indicated they would do both.
The vote to move the nomination to the floor of the Senate requires 60 votes. Republicans have a 52-48 (46 with two independents that caucus with Democrats) majority. Therefore, once they invoke cloture, Gorsuch will be confirmed because of the GOP majority.
NY Senator Chuck Schumer announced the Democrats’ intent to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination using a phony, made-up “standard” of 60 votes for confirmation. McConnell, whenever asked about the filibuster, calmly responds, “Gorsuch will be confirmed.”
That’s a clear message to Senator Schumer. McConnell’s words hint at two words Democrats do not want to hear: Nuclear option.
It’s monumentally stupid for Schumer to urge his Democratic colleagues to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. The balance of the court is not going to shift, and McConnell will likely exercise the nuclear option giving Republicans the chance to use a simple majority for future Supreme Court picks. Such a move is disastrous for Democrats. Should Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Steven Breyer choose to retire, conservative jurist replacements are a 51 vote majority away.
Democrats know this, and it’s why three of them announced not only their intent to vote to invoke cloture but also to confirm Gorsuch. Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana joined with Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in announcing support for Gorsuch’s confirmation.
That still leaves 5 Democrats needed to break ranks. Many are looking to 2018. Their elections hang in the balance. It’s likely there are five who are not willing to die on this hill and be seen in part as those responsible for Mitch McConnell nuking the 60 vote threshold.
McConnell has put Democrats on notice. It’s doubtful they’ll take the risk he’s bluffing.