Democrats have no play on Neil Gorsuch

Don’t be 100 percent certain that the Supreme Court filibuster is already effectively dead and just waiting for someone to kill it. Sure, if Democrats “played nice” with Gorsuch—which doesn’t mean they’d take him out to the strip club to celebrate the dawn of his 40-year reign, just that they’d eventually supply the eight votes he’d need to break a filibuster—Republicans could still nuke it the next time to make way for Justice Cruz. The appetite for such an aggressive power play isn’t consistent throughout the Republican caucus, though.

If Trump were to nominate a Justice Cruz, or whoever else might seriously shift the balance of the court the next time, Democratic deployment of the filibuster would be more widely perceived as reasonable: an extraordinary response to an extraordinary action. That would increase the cost of nuking it. As we’ve seen this week, Republican senators such as Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins are responsive to this cost if vocal constituents lay it squarely before them. All Democratic tactics over the next four years should be about creating political space for the likes of Murkowski, Collins, and other swayables to commit the occasional partisan apostasy. Targeted obstruction does this. Blanket obstruction does not.