Sen. Coons: Gorsuch won't get 60 votes, GOP will go nuclear

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said he believes Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed over the objection of Democrats but it will require the GOP to exercise the nuclear option.

“He’ll get an up or down vote,” Sen. Coons said, adding, “Senator Schumer, our minority leader, has said it’s going to be a 60 vote margin and I doubt he’s going to get 60 votes.” Coons continued, “There’s a lot of finger-pointing. There’s a lot of Democrats justifiably still very mad about the treatment of Merrick Garland.”

Asked by host Joe Scarborough if Gorsuch would eventually get the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, Sen. Coons replied, “I don’t think he’s going to get 60 votes.” Scarborough said the result would be the GOP using the so-called nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster.

“Almost certainly, and I think this is tragic,” Sen. Coons replied. He continued, “In talking to friends on both sides of the aisle we’ve got a lot of Senators concerned about where we’re headed. There’s Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule. We’re mad at them about shutting down the government. There mad at us about Gorsuch. And we are not headed in a good direction.”

What’s interesting about this is that Sen. Coons (and presumably the rest of his party) already knows how this is going to play out. Democrats will offer a symbolic show of resistance and Republicans will end it with the nuclear option. The result will be that Judge Gorsuch still gets a seat on the Supreme Court but the atmosphere in Congress will be even more polarized.

As I wrote recently, using the nuclear option now is probably the best thing for the GOP in the long run. Democrats would be much better off backing away from the nuclear option now and confirming Judge Gorsuch. After all, even Elizabeth Warren agrees Gorsuch is “charming and intelligent” and “has an impressive legal pedigree.” But the party is being driven by an angry base that wants a show of resistance and by the abortion industry which is justifiably worried about the future.

The result is that instead of setting a precedent that Democrats are reasonable, they will set a precedent that the nuclear option is necessary to overcome their obstructionism. That will be a very handy precedent if, as expected, Trump makes another appointment to the Supreme Court to replace a retiring liberal Justice in a few years.