Democrats saw no real benefit in working with Republicans over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, knowing President Donald Trump would choose the judge he wanted and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would use the “nuclear option” to approve the pick regardless, Politico reported Sunday.
Democrats also saw the issue as an opportunity to please the liberal base. Additionally, some were miffed when McConnell announced shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia a year ago that the Senate would not consider former President Barack Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland, for the position.
"Republicans telegraphed in their treatment of Garland that they were going to change the rules whenever they need to in order to get the court packed to their favor," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in an interview with Politico. "Anybody who thought that giving Gorsuch the votes was going to allow us to have veto power over the second vacancy is deluding themselves."
Democrats figured they would find the next pick objectionable as well, should a vacancy arise, since the president chose Gorsuch from a list of recommendations by conservative groups.
“If this were a nominee that were a product of consultation, not the product of a very conservative think tank … but it isn’t,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a veteran of Supreme Court battles and the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, told reporters after her Democrats tried to block Gorsuch.
“[Trump] said, ‘This is my shopping list, my prospect pool,’” centrist Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in an interview. “My expectation is that if he’s still president” when another court vacancy emerges, “I would expect him to pick from that” list.
A second Trump pick to the Supreme Court could have more significant consequences, depending on whose seat will be filled. Democrats also had a trust issue with McConnell, who they felt would use a rules change to push forward a nominee the second time regardless.
“All of those issues in the consideration of a second appointment, should there be one, are exactly the same kind of questions you face here,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in an interview. “There was never any assurance at any point.”
And the risk of the filibuster was not without its rewards for Democrats as they saw left-leaning groups rally around over concerns about Gorsuch being too conservative.
However, some Democrats were willing to work with Republicans to avoid a filibuster, such as Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who wanted assurances Republicans would not use the nuclear option for future nominees.
“I wanted certainty that the voice of the minority would still be heard as next vacancies arise,” Coons said, but when he saw no deal was to be made, he joined the filibuster.
The president told reporters before Gorsuch’s confirmation that a rules change would not alter how he chooses future Supreme Court nominees.
"Hopefully, if there is a second one in my administration — there could be as many as four ... I don't think the nuclear option has anything to do with [it] at all,” Trump said.
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