Looks like Donald Trump has come very close to reaching a decision on his first Supreme Court appointment — or has already made it. Earlier this morning, the new president invited the media to watch him sign the orders approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and then told them that he would decide this week on his nominee and announce it next week:
According to Mitch McConnell, though, Trump will sit down with Senate leadership this afternoon to discuss the Supreme Court nomination — and not just Senate Republican leadership, either:
President Donald Trump will meet with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday to discuss his Supreme Court choice, McConnell said.
Trump also planned to meet with Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Politico reported, citing an unidentified administration official.
The group also includes Charles Grassley, the Judiciary Chair. Politico reports that McConnell announced it from the Senate floor:
On the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell said that Trump invited the Senate leaders to the White House “as part of his ongoing consultations with members of the Senate.”
“I appreciate the president soliciting our advice on this important matter,” McConnell said.
Perhaps Trump wants to run two or three options past the bipartisan group, but … why? Normally, that discussion would be had with one’s own party first, and then the opposition when a choice has already been made. On top of that, the time for confrontation over Supreme Court filibusters is probably now, rather than down the road, and this attempt at comity theoretically could interfere with that, if Schumer and Feinstein agree to allow one of Trump’s options to come to a floor vote and not whip for a filibuster. But how likely is that anyway? If Trump offers them a choice between the three most mentioned picks — William Pryor, Neil Gorsuch, and Diane Sykes — the two Democrats will almost certainly reject them as too far out of the mainstream and filibuster anyway. (That’ll certainly be the case with Pryor, as they filibustered him once before.)
Most likely, Trump just wants to check off the box on bipartisan advice and consent as political leverage in the battle to come. That sounds more like a Mitch McConnell play, and it’s a good one — but if that’s the case, why are Schumer and Feinstein playing along? They’ve been around long enough to see a trap like that coming. On the other hand, how do they walk away from it, either? That would make them look determined to obstruct no matter how reasonable Trump acts — which they are, of course, as Schumer has made clear. But refusing to meet with Trump first would give Republicans a pretty clear casus belli for the nuclear option, even more so than they have already. Trump and McConnell may have them outboxed already.
Either way, I’m betting that the decision has already been made. Depending on how this meeting goes today, we may hear the answer sooner rather than later. If Democrats want a pitched battle, there’s no time like the present to start, and to test McConnell’s mettle on his pledge to ensure that Trump’s nominee gets to the Supreme Court … one way or another.