It’s beginning to look a lot like nuclearmas. Just two days after warning Democratic donors about the dangers of absolute obstructionism on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has decided to, er, go full obstructionist on Gorsuch anyway:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday said she will vote to support a filibuster of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
The announcement makes it significantly harder for Gorsuch to muster the 60 votes he needs to overcome a filibuster and advance to a final confirmation vote.
Amusingly, McCaskill tries to eat her moderate cake and then have it too. In her explanation at Medium of her decision to support the filibuster, McCaskill laments “polarized politics” while painting Gorsuch as a soulless corporate shill:
This is a really difficult decision for me. I am not comfortable with either choice. While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court — and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation — I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future.
I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity. And he has been an activist — for example, writing a dissent on a case that had been settled, in what appears to be an attempt to audition for his current nomination.
At least Neil Gorsuch didn’t demonstrate a stunning lack of consistency. Here’s what McCaskill said on Wednesday night to Democratic donors about Gorsuch and the wisdom of pushing Republicans to the nuclear brink in the Senate:
She pointed to the list of potential nominees that Trump released before the election to galvanize conservative support. “By the way, Gorsuch was one of the better ones,” McCaskill quipped.
“So they pick another one off the list and then they bring it over to the Senate and we say no, no, no, this one’s worse. And there’s not enough votes to confirm him. They’re not going to let us do that too long before they move it to 51 votes,” she said. …
“So they move it to 51 votes and they confirm either Gorsuch or they confirm the one after Gorsuch,” she continued. “They go on the Supreme Court and then, God forbid, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, or (Anthony) Kennedy retires or (Stephen) Breyer has a stroke or is no longer able to serve. Then we’re not talking about Scalia for Scalia, which is what Gorsuch is, we’re talking about Scalia for somebody on the court who shares our values. And then all of a sudden the things I fought for with scars on my back to show for it in this state are in jeopardy.”
Again, that was just two days ago. What changed? Perhaps McCaskill got spooked by those donors, or more likely, got her leash yanked back by Chuck Schumer. That will hardly impress the voters in the Show-Me State who backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by nineteen points five months ago, and whom McCaskill will have to face in nineteen months to keep her job. The Hamlet routine won’t impress them any more then than it will at the moment.
Politico’s Burgess Everett writes that McCaskill’s flip-flop may guarantee Mitch McConnell all the Republican votes he needs to exercise the Reid Option — if necessary:
Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia have not publicly announced their positions; neither has Independent Angus King of Maine. Gorsuch now needs six of those 10 senators to support him to avoid a collision over the Senate rules.
McConnell, meanwhile, must cobble together 50 of his 52 members to vote for gutting the filibuster for high-court nominees via the “nuclear option,” a unilateral vote to change the Senate rules. No Republicans have said they will vote against it, and despite the reservations of many in the GOP, it appears to be a done deal.
“He’s going to do the nuclear option,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “He’s going to break the rules to change the rules. No doubt.”
It now seems very unlikely that Schumer and Pat Leahy have a managed vote strategy in mind that leaves the filibuster secure. None of the unannounced on Everett’s whip list needed more protection than McCaskill, except maaaayyyyybeee Joe Donnelly in Indiana. No managed-vote kabuki theater would have Feinstein voting for cloture, for example, while leaving McCaskill hanging out to dry in a very red state. McCaskill’s seat is the one that kind of strategy would be designed to protect.
Of course, Schumer hardly has shown himself to be a master strategist in this instance anyway. He’s allowed himself to be pushed into La Resistance on the worst possible battleground. McCaskill had this much right — Gorsuch is such an eminently qualified nominee, possessing such obviously superior judicial temperament, that a filibuster at this point only demonstrates that Democrats will abuse their minority position to block anyone from the Supreme Court. If they let Gorsuch pass, giving Republicans “a Scalia for a Scalia,” then a filibuster on the next nominee would at least carry some moral weight of having cooperated in governance on the first opening, and might have allowed them to get enough Republicans to block the Reid Option when it really matters. With this filibuster, Schumer’s throwing that away just to make the extreme activists on the Left happy. We’ll see how happy they get when Ginsburg or Breyer get replaced with William Pryor or Ted Cruz.