Democrat Filibuster Threat On Gorsuch May Be Crumbling

Last night, shortly after President Trump announced the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, there were predictions of Armageddon. Chris Matthews, legs a-tingle with rage, led the charge:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think this is going to come down, Chris, to a sad denouement. I think it’s going to take 60 votes to get this approved and I think the Republicans will have their rank-and-file 52 votes will be there. But I don’t think the Democrats are going to give them a single vote which mean this will go to a filibuster and then — and I hate to cut to the chase but I will — it’s going to be up to Mitch McConnell.

He’s going to have to choose between something he deeply believes in. He really believes as an institutionalist in the Senate the need to make the Senate different than the House, to have a filibuster requirement of 60 votes that keeps it from being too extreme in either direction, requiring cabinet members, everybody has to go through that 60-vote requirement, that threshold. He’s not going to give that away easily.

Trump says he will but I don’t think Mitch McConnell will so in the end it will be Mitch McConnell making a decision, do I give up the filibuster rule which requires 60 votes to get something through if that means giving up something I believe in, doing it just for Trump to get his first nominee through. I don’t think he’ll do it. I think Mitch McConnell will hold fast and say it will be 60 votes.

This fellow, he’s probably a good guy is very much like Antonin Scalia, a good person whatever you think of him, politically and ideologically, and I don’t think it will get through to him because I don’t think they’ll get 60 votes because I don’t think they’ll get a single Democratic vote, Chris. Not a one. Because this country is so polarized now. You know it as well as I do. Look at the DeVos nomination for Education Secretary. You can just see united party fronts on this kind of vote, these ideological votes.

As my colleague Jay Caruso pointed out, there are a lot of reasons that Democrats will be reticent about using the filibuster to block Gorsuch.

The New York Times weighed in arguing against a filibuster:

The destructive lesson Senate Republicans taught is that obstruction pays off. Yet they seem to have short memories. After Senate Democrats refused to attend votes on two of Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks on Tuesday, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said, “We did not inflict this kind of obstructionism on President Obama.” Even absent such dishonesty, any Democratic impulse to mimic the Republican blockade by filibustering Judge Gorsuch would be understandable. But Senate Democrats should be wary of stooping to the Republicans’ level, especially because any such effort is likely to prove futile, since Republicans have the votes to simply eliminate the use of the filibuster against Supreme Court nominees. The hearings should, however, present Democrats with an opportunity to probe Judge Gorsuch’s views.

And now Politico is reporting that at least seven Democrat senators have said they will not filibuster:

AT LEAST SEVEN Democratic senators have gone on the record saying they won’t filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).

What is significant about this group is that while Tester and Heitkamp and Manchin are facing tough reelection fights in states that went for Trump, Durbin, Blumenthal, and Coons have seats for life and they have strong credibility with the Democrat base. If they aren’t pushing filibuster then, more likely than not, it isn’t going to happen. Schumer has pretty much locked himself into pushing a filibuster and daring McConnell to get rid of the filibuster. This is going to strike directly at his ability to lead his caucus in the coming fights.