You know the scene in almost every western movie…two rivals stand alone in the center of the town while tumbleweed rolls past and the music builds in intensity. One of the men lifts his hat so that you can see the glare from his eyes and the other responds with the same animosity. The two cowboys are now facing each other only 20 paces apart. Who will be the first to reach for their gun? It’s a showdown.
That is where we are in Washington this week regarding Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. We are not dealing with cowboys with guns and holsters. We are dealing with politicians with filibusters and the threat of “going nuclear.” The showdown has begun. . .
On Monday, the Republican-led Judiciary Committee meets and is expected to back Gorsuch and send his nomination to the full Senate. Three Democrats have declared their support of Gorsuch, joining a unanimous Republican vote, but there will need to be five more Democrats jumping party lines to stop a filibuster. If the Democrats follow through on their threat, it will be the first time in history a party has initiated a filibuster in the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice. It didn’t even happen in the controversial debates over nominees like Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will most likely change Senate rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber, instead of the 60 vote present rule. McConnell has lifted his cowboy hat and with a glare in his eye said, “Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week, how that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan gasis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.”
Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York responded by vowing to block the nominee, infuriating his Republican rivals. If the Republicans “go nuclear,” it won’t be unprecedented. In 2013, the Democrats were in the majority and were upset about appellate court nominees getting blocked by the Republicans, so they pushed to change the rules and lowered the vote threshold on all nominees except those nominated for the Supreme Court. The 60 vote threshold was lowered to a simple majority.
Well, this is the week. . .the rivals are toe to toe, the music is intense, the glares and threats have escalated, and the tumbleweed is rolling. It’s a showdown on Main Street in Washington. What do you think the outcome will be?