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On Gorsuch – What is Schumer’s Endgame?

By  |  March 25, 2017, 08:20am  |  @wpatrickf

Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer D-NY announced he would filibuster the SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch, and urged his fellow Democratic senators to follow suit: (WaPo)

“Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the body’s top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch’s expected confirmation and ultimately upend the traditional approach to approving justices. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will vote no on President Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.”

The Hill actually reports Sen. Schumer will be whipping his members to uphold the filibuster (The Hill):

“Schumer vowed Thursday that he will whip his members against the nominee.”

On the Republican side, some clarity came about yesterday (Weekly Standard):

Sen. McCain:

“Arizona senator John McCain hinted Thursday afternoon that he’s ready to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch with a simple majority if Senate Democrats take the unprecedented step of filibustering a Supreme Court nominee. Asked what Republicans should do if 41 or more Democrats try to block Gorsuch, McCain told THE WEEKLY STANDARD: “I think we’ll address it when it happens. None of us want to do it, but we’re going to confirm Gorsuch.”

Sen. Lindsey:

“Earlier Thursday, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also signaled that he’s willing to confirm Neil Gorsuch with a simple majority. “Whatever it takes to get him on the court, I will do,” Graham said when asked on the Mike Gallagher radio show about eliminating the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees, a rules change sometimes known as the “nuclear option.”

Sen. Flake: 

“Arizona’s Jeff Flake told TWS: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I think we’ll get him confirmed.”

Sen. Murkowski: 

“There’s no reason for anybody to filibuster,” said Lisa Murkowski, a moderate from Alaska. “Gorsuch is a good guy.”

The pressure is mounting on the Democrat senators to stay firm (The Hill):

“Liberal activists, such as filmmaker Michael Moore, warn that Democrats who vote for Gorsuch will face primary challenges. Heidi Hess, senior campaign manager at CREDO Action, a liberal advocacy group, criticized Bennet Monday after he introduced Gorsuch and “contributed to the lighthearted tone” of the first day of the Judiciary Committee hearings. “A vote for Gorsuch is a vote to hand the court over to Trump,” she said. “In the same way the vote to hand the Iraq war vote to George W. Bush was a stain on Democrats’ record, we see a vote for Gorsuch as a stain on their record and progressives will hold them accountable.”

And there’s more (WaPo):

“Gorsuch’s approach “reflects a narrow view of civil rights and a deep skepticism of protecting those rights in the courtroom,” said Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “

What is Sen. Schumer’s end game? In the end, is he going to force his members to join him in a filibuster? If so, to what end?

It appears Schumer is keeping his own counsel about his ultimate strategy, but there are only so many options available.  The most reasonable understanding is this is really just a head fake on Schumer’s part. (NPR):

“Democratic sources say the leadership would not mind losing the cloture vote, but they would have to lose eight of their 48 members to do that.”

Essentially the NY senator and his coterie of liberals raise the roof in protest of the good justice, all the while giving 8-10 red state senators leeway to vote to kill the filibuster, then moving on to a simple majority up or down vote. This allows the Dems and MSM to act like they were all-in against allowing the vote, while allowing vulnerable senators the ability to placate voters back home.

This is a bit of a risk for the Democrats. By continuing the threat of a filibuster, they might trigger Sen. McConnell into a rules vote eliminating the filibuster altogether. It is a tight wire act for the libs to be sure.

Right now, the safe bet would be a Democratic filibuster promptly followed by a successful cloture vote overriding the filibuster ending in a successful vote approving Judge Gorsuch. Expect a lot of empty rhetoric, threats and a multitude of prophecy about the senate being ruined by both parties, and various prognostications based on the latest tidbit being fed the press. All good fun. No worries. Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed next month.