Victory lap? Why not? The time for talking officially expired at 11:30 ET, when the Senate finally took up the floor vote for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. After Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley hailed Gorsuch as an independent-minded jurist, a “judge’s judge” who is “his own man,” he requested a quorum call for the floor vote. Dick Durbin offered to surrender the remainder of the Democratic time for debate, a rare gracious moment in this fight, as Mike Pence personally presided over the vote.
Remarkably, the vote started almost exactly on schedule, but that was the only mild surprise — although it took a rather long time to complete the vote. The confirmation vote hit the 51-vote mark at 11:43 with Rand Paul’s vote, making it at that moment 51-20. Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, and Heidi Heitkamp crossed over to support Gorsuch, as pledged. Colorado’s Michael Bennet voted against his state’s favored son — again, as pledged, although Bennet opposed the filibuster. The final vote was 54-45.
(Update, 12:39 – The Senate has not posted the roll call, but one Senator missed the vote. It’s likely Sen. Johnny Isakson, who’s been recovering from an injury. He tweeted out his approbation afterward:
— Johnny Isakson (@SenatorIsakson) April 7, 2017
The rest of the original post follows.)
Here’s the moment for posterity:
BREAKING: The Senate has confirmed judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in a 54 to 45 vote https://t.co/ObYxuv1Ml7
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 7, 2017
Now that he’s been confirmed, Gorsuch will get the weekend to wrap up his affairs. He will be sworn in on Monday and will join the court officially at that time:
— ABC News (@ABC) April 7, 2017
Charles Krauthammer wrote earlier today that the punishment of the nuclear option fits the Democrats’ partisan offenses:
Moreover, killing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations (the so-called nuclear option) yields two gratifications: It allows a superb young conservative jurist to ascend to the seat once held by Antonin Scalia. And it constitutes condign punishment for the reckless arrogance of Reid and his erstwhile Democratic majority.
A major reason these fights over Supreme Court nominations have become so bitter and unseemly is the stakes — the political stakes. The Supreme Court has become more than ever a superlegislature. From abortion to gay marriage, it has appropriated to itself the final word. It rules — and the normal democratic impulses, expressed through the elected branches, are henceforth stifled. …
The Gorsuch nomination is a bitter setback to the liberal project of using the courts to ratchet leftward the law and society. However, Gorsuch’s appointment simply preserves the court’s ideological balance of power. Wait for the next nomination. Having gratuitously forfeited the filibuster, Democrats will be facing the loss of the court for a generation.
Condign punishment indeed.
Yesterday, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reported that the Left was poised to claim victory no matter the outcome:
They predict that Republicans will face a backlash over changing the Senate’s rules and will have to own any controversial decisions handed down by the Supreme Court heading into the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election.
“It’s been our belief since election night that Democrats’ job is to do everything they can to block Trump’s interest and agenda,” said Heidi Hess, the senior campaign manager for Credo Action. “We’re absolutely in support of the Democratic Party acting like the opposition party.”
Kaylie Hanson Long, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, added separately that if Republicans decide to employ the “nuclear option” on Gorsuch, they will be changing the rules for “a president under active FBI investigation for potential ties to Russia.”
“Let’s be clear: the decision to blow up the Senate is squarely in the hands of Republicans, and Republicans alone. And it will be only Republican votes to change the rules,” she wrote in a memo to reporters.
Well, except for all the Democratic votes in 2013 that did the exact same thing. It’s one thing to act like an opposition party, but something else entirely to act as an obstructionist party — especially immediately after an election in which this specific Supreme Court nomination was litigated extensively by both parties. This knee-jerk showdown over a clearly well-qualified judge with an obviously attractive judicial temperament only exposes the extremism behind that obstruction.
Besides, where do they think the battlegrounds are in the next elections? They won’t be in the deep-blue coastal states where obstructionism will be popular, but in nine or ten states where Donald Trump won the election, in large part because of the Supreme Court. Incumbents like Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester will get shredded over their votes to obstruct Gorsuch.
The most puzzling part of this was the missed opportunity to leverage the traditionalism of several Republicans in the Senate. Clearly a few of their colleagues across the aisle did not want to do go nuclear; John McCain grumbled about it to the bitter end. Why not give Gorsuch a floor vote and wait for a more provocative nominee on the next opening? Yes, Democrats and progressives insist that McConnell would have gone nuclear then too, but the success of that would depend on the nominee. McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski wouldn’t have signed up to change the rules for William Pryor, for instance, and that left Democrats some leverage against Trump to force him into at least some hesitancy in selecting more activist conservatives to the court.
Now, however, Trump has carte blanche on his next opening. Democrats have no leverage at all, having squandered it on a nominee that doesn’t impact the philosophical balance of the court at all. On top of that, their hysterics over Gorsuch have eroded their credibility entirely. Chuck Schumer let the progressive wing of his party lead him into a trap. It’s amazing.