Democrats can’t seem to land a punch on Neil Gorsuch — and it’s not even clear they want to.
President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has breezed through more than 70 meetings with senators. Opponents who’ve scoured his record have found little to latch onto. And some Democrats are privately beginning to believe that Gorsuch — barring a blunder at his Senate confirmation hearings next week — will clinch the 60 votes he needs to be approved without a filibuster.
The problem for the Democrats in the Senate is the filibuster. They know the GOP is looking for an excuse to scrap it. They also know Gorsuch will not shift the ideological balance of the Court. If they filibuster him, the GOP will scuttle the filibuster. But if they appear reasonable now and save the filibuster, they gamble the GOP will have a tougher time scrapping the filibuster on the next nomination.
I don’t actually think it matters. I think the GOP wants to scrap the filibuster for Court nominees as the ultimate payback for the Democrats doing it on other nominations. But you and I both know the media will treat Democrat concerns about the next nominee more substantively if they do not blow up the filibuster now, but appear reasonable.
The next nominee will then be framed as “more radical than Gorsuch.”
The upside for the GOP on this is that it will further inflame tensions among Democrats and could risk setting off a series of bruising primary fights for Democrats in 2018, including in states that Trump won. That then would hurt the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate.