Chuck Schumer is a smart and savvy politician. He surely knows that if 41 Democrats band together to deny an up-or-down vote on the confirmation of a nominee as well-respected as Judge Neil Gorsuch, Republicans will most likely eliminate the 60-vote hurdle on Supreme Court nominees—just as Democrats did in 2013 for all other judicial and executive branch nominees. If Democrats want to preserve the possibility of filibustering Supreme Court nominees, they could have a better chance of success in the future against a weaker nominee, supported perhaps by a slimmer GOP Senate majority and an administration nearer the end of its term.
But Democrats may very well blow up their chance of filibustering a future nominee. Democrats are still smarting over the Senate Republican majority’s decision to hold Scalia’s seat open for the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Liberal activists want payback and are threatening to primary any Democrat who votes to allow an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch’s nomination—even if he or she then votes against Gorsuch.
We trust that if Democrats choose to filibuster, Republicans will be smart enough and tough enough to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote. But all Chuck Schumer needs to turn an expected defeat into a shocking victory is to recruit three supporters among the 52 Senate Republicans. To that end, Schumer has suggested that the Republicans who would let 41 Democrats block Trump’s nominee are the “Republicans who believe in the institution of the Senate.”