Death of the Filibuster

A couple good columns this morning from before the actual action.  First, Greg Koger:

A “right” is meaningless if it can be abolished when someone actually tries to use it. If Republicans are willing to abolish the right to filibuster Supreme Court nominations so they can force President Trump’s nominees through the Senate, Democrats lose nothing by making them follow through on their threat. Indeed, this “nuclear option” improves the debate over nominations by making them more transparent…

Since the 1960s, there has been an ideological struggle over the composition of the Supreme Court, but this war has mostly been waged in the shadows. Senators have acquiesced in every nomination that reached the Senate floor except Robert Bork’s in 1987. This deference, combined with the Republicans’ willingness to “go nuclear” to force Trump’s nominees through the chamber, means that the minority party is unlikely to have much influence on future nominations, with or without the “right” to filibuster. The Senate is better off without this farce.

The real constraint on nominations lies in the democratic process. Even when nominees say as little as possible about issues or cases, as Neil Gorsuch did, senators know the real question is whether to continue the direction of the Roberts court in striking down campaign-finance laws, granting religious exemptions from regulations to for-profit corporations, restricting abortion, and allowing states free rein to manipulate electoral rules to advantage the party in power.

And EJ Dionne:

Why are Democrats filibustering Judge Neil Gorsuch? Because they’ve had enough with the politics of power-grabbing and bullying.

At the root of this fight is a long-term conservative effort to dominate the Supreme Court and turn it to the political objectives of the right.

This is thus about far more than retaliation, however understandable, for the Senate Republicans’ refusal to give even a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat Gorsuch would fill. Behind the current judicial struggle lies a series of highly politicized Supreme Court rulings…

So let’s can all of these original-sin arguments about who started what and when in our struggles over the judiciary. From Bush v. Gore to Citizens United to Shelby County, it is the right wing that chose to thrust the court into the middle of electoral politics in an entirely unprecedented and hugely damaging way.

And the Republican-led Senate was ready to use any means necessary to hold on to this partisan advantage. When Obama chose Garland for the court, he picked the nominee Republicans themselves had said they could confirm…

In the coming days, we will hear moans about how terrible filibustering a Supreme Court choice is. Democrats will be dismissed as catering to “their base.” Justified outrage over the blockade against Garland will be reduced to score-settling, as if those who started a fight should be allowed to recast themselves as pious, gentle peace-lovers when the other side dares to strike back…

It’s said that with the odds against them in this fight, progressives would be wise to back off now and wait for the next battle. But graciousness and tactical caution have only emboldened the right. It’s past time to have it out. From now on, conservatives must encounter tough resistance as they try to turn the highest court in the land into a cog in their political machine.

Yep.  Yep. The Republicans were going to get Gorsuch.  Period.  But, damn, there’s got to be some consequences for them running roughshod all over norms.  Had Democrats not filibustered, that would have just encouraged even more norm-breaking from Republicans.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Death of the Filibuster

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The authoritarian right despises people or groups who placate or compromise or who don’t stand firm on their values. So when the left doesn’t stand firm the perceived weakness invites even more aggressive tactics from its opponent.
    Democrats need to unleash the attack dogs on wrong doing but at the same time other Democrats must be publicizing programs that will “fix” the needs that voters prioritize.
    Strategy: when your opponents hits you, strike back with both barrels.

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