Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s threat to filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination probably won’t keep the judge off the high court. But it could spell the end of the remnants of the Senate cloture rule as it applies to presidential nominees.
Preventing a vote is the antithesis of democratic procedure. James Stewart’s popular portrayal of the filibuster in the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a romantic image, but essentially at odds with how politics is supposed to work. The American system of government is based on compromise, a value enshrined throughout the Constitution. The Senate owes its very existence to the Great Compromise of 1787. The original Filibusters, by contrast, were uncompromising Caribbean pirates, and the verb “to filibuster” initially referred to mercenary groups in the 1850s who invaded and plundered Cuba and Central America. The expression later was applied to taking piratical control of the Senate. It was not a term of endearment.