Negotiations to avoid 'nuclear option' in the Senate collapse

We’ve been watching the nomination of Judge Gorsuch play out like a slow motion car wreck for weeks. Democrats announced a filibuster and gradually came up with enough supporter to sustain one, even though they knew the GOP was prepared to use the so-called nuclear option to stop them. Today the Hill reports that a last-minute negotiation effort to avoid the Senate rule change led by Senators Susan Collins and Chris Coons has collapsed:

“The negotiations with which I was heavily involved have failed to come up with a compromise, which saddens me. There’s so little trust between the two parties that it was very difficult to put together an agreement that would avert changing the rules,” Collins told reporters…

Coons, who led the talks from the Democratic side, said the talks failed because of a lack of trust.

“I invested a lot of time in the last week in meeting with, talking to and exchanging ideas with both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “At the end of the day there were a few key sticking points, one was the lack of trust because of the way Merrick Garland was treated.”

There was talk last week about a deal in which the GOP would promise not to go nuclear on the next Supreme Court nominee in exchange for an up or down vote on Judge Gorsuch. Based on a report from CNN yesterday, that where this negotiation between Collins and Coons was headed:

Sen. Chris Coons…told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he is open to negotiating with Republicans to find an agreement on avoiding the nuclear option — so long as the GOP doesn’t invoke it on the next confirmation battle.

“I said, ‘I will vote against closure unless the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can somehow find an agreement that is trustworthy and reliable, where on the next Supreme Court nominee they won’t change the rules and we will have input, and a more confirmable, consensus nominee will be put in front of the Senate,'” Coons said.

As I noted last week, the far-left wing of the Democratic party wasn’t interested in making any kind of deal. Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee told the Hill, “Going along with a right-wing justice so later on you have the right to block a right-wing justice is ridiculous.”  And Green was hardly alone. Yesterday, Adam Jentleson of the Center for American Progress Action Fund told CNN, “If you don’t filibuster Gorsuch, McConnell will just get rid of it next time.” He added, “Next time, the balance of the court would be at stake, so the motivation to go nuclear is even stronger.” Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas was more blunt, telling CNN, “If McConnell really has the votes to kill it, good riddance.”

Of course, it’s entirely possible both sides will come to regret this move in the future, but in the short term this will be a win for Republicans and could be an even bigger win in the medium-term if one of the Supreme Court’s die-hard liberals retires. Having already established the precedent it will be that much easier for the GOP to override the minority party next time. Given that these are lifetime appointments, that could change the course of the Supreme Court for decades. But eventually, Democrats will be in control of the Senate when a conservative on the court retires. Then it will be too late to have regrets.