The filibuster is on: Democrat Chris Coons announces he'll block Gorsuch, denying GOP 60 votes for confirmation

And that’s that.

It’s an insult to Gorsuch, a man so eminently qualified for the Court that Obama’s solicitor general went to bat for him, but a good day for Republicans in that you couldn’t ask for more favorable political ground on which to nuke the filibuster. Ramesh Ponnuru makes a good point here that so long as the GOP maintains a narrow Senate majority, Democrats will face minimal risk from the nuking to come: If Trump nominates someone truly controversial for the next vacancy, centrists like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski might vote no, putting the nominee at risk of failing to clear 50 votes. Ending the filibuster will matter most in 2019 if the GOP picks up Senate seats in the midterms. With, say, 56 seats in the Senate instead of 52, McConnell will be able to lose a Collins here or a Murkowski there on judicial confirmations and still get to 50. And there won’t be a thing Democrats can do about it.

Speaking of obstruction, watch the clip below of Lindsey Graham taking it to Democrats at this morning’s Judiciary Committee hearing. The whole thing is worth your time if you can spare it, but the key runs from 9:15 to 11:35. Since when, he asks, does the party that borked Bork blanch at the thought of playing hardball over judicial nominations? Joe Biden went to the floor of the Senate in 1992 and explicitly called for bottling up nominees for vacancies that happen in election years. Four years ago, rather than reach a deal on lower-court judges, Harry Reid and his party went ahead and blew up the filibuster. Ten years before that, they filibustered Miguel Estrada seven times. In a vacuum, Graham’s statement that the other party would have behaved the same way towards Garland as the GOP did is empty speculation. Given the Democrats’ track record, it’s plain fact. History didn’t begin on January 20th, no matter how much some lefties and their media friends would like to believe it.

All of which raises a question. If the Gorsuch filibuster is really about revenge for Garland rather than about principled objection to Gorsuch himself, why are so many Democrats claiming that it’s about … Gorsuch himself? Dianne Feinstein went on and on this morning about how objectionable Gorsuch’s record is, which no one seriously believes. Even liberals are rolling their eyes:

At the Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson argues in favor of filibustering to make a point about the GOP’s treatment of Garland but can’t understand why Democrats insist on claiming Gorsuch is problematic:

Is Neil Gorsuch really that extremist? He presented himself at hearings as a pragmatist, more in the mold of Justice Kennedy than of the late Justice Scalia he is replacing. But even if that was just posturing, Gorsuch’s record and published writing make clear that while he is indeed a hard-right conservative, he’s not out of the broad mainstream of American jurisprudence. He’s no Bork.

For Democrats to Bork Gorsuch, then, poisons the well. It is dangerous for what’s left of the judicial nomination process. What’s to stop Senate Republicans from Borking whoever the next Democratic president nominates? Surely that person will have some liberal views, just as Gorsuch has some conservative ones. What then?…

The Senate is meant to confirm qualified candidates, full stop. Senators should only oppose candidates—let alone filibuster them—if they are unqualified. Yes, that includes someone so extreme that the extremity of their views itself makes them unqualified. But again, Gorsuch is not that judge.

Giving McConnell a pretext to nuke the filibuster for a judge whom even liberals like Michaelson concede is well qualified is terrible strategy, but certainly Democrats would have a stronger case to the public if they made this exclusively about Garland than about Gorsuch. And that’s all this is about at this point — PR. Gorsuch will be confirmed, but Dems can score a moral victory if they can convince voters that the GOP’s tactics are illegitimate. Their best shot at doing that is to hammer at the fact that they stonewalled Garland, but instead they’ve spent most of their time hammering at Gorsuch. It’s bizarre. And it makes the decision to filibuster even more self-defeating.

If you don’t watch the whole clip, at least watch the last minute or so. Graham is highly, highly underrated as a speaker among Republicans.

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