Democrats vow par­ti­san fil­i­buster of Gor­such

GOP: Col­leagues can still make ‘right choice’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX SWOYER

Judge Neil Gor­such cleared his first test vote Mon­day in his quest for the Supreme Court, gain­ing ap­proval of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in a party-line vote that presages a nasty, history-mak­ing fight on the cham­ber floor later this week.

Democrats say they have enough votes to suc­cess­fully mount the first-ever par­ti­san fil­i­buster of a Supreme Court pick, and Repub­li­can lead­ers say that if Democrats fol­low through on that threat, the GOP will be forced to use the “nu­clear op­tion” to change the rules.

“It’s not too late for our Demo­cratic col­leagues to make the right choice,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell pleaded with Democrats. He said the fight Democrats have picked is the wrong fight, choos­ing to force a show­down over a nom­i­nee that all sides agree has the high­est le­gal cre­den­tials.

Judge Gor­such cleared the Se­nate com­mit­tee in an 11-9 vote, with ev­ery Repub­li­can back­ing him and ev­ery Demo­crat on the panel op­pos­ing him.

Mr. McCon­nell has set a fi­nal vote on Judge Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion for Fri­day, with the nu­clear op­tion show­down com­ing a day ear­lier.

His Demo­cratic op­po­nents said the judge has skirted the big is­sues, leav­ing them guess­ing as to how he’d rule.

“Judge Gor­such’s views were dif­fi­cult to dis­cern be­cause he re­fused to an­swer many ques­tions — even ba­sic ques­tions that had been answered by pre­vi­ous nom­i­nees,” said Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, the top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Democrats have of­fered a long list of reasons — some­times con­flict­ing ones — for why they will not back Judge Gor­such.

A hand­ful of sen­a­tors have said they can’t stom­ach any­one nominated by Mr. Trump at a time when the pres­i­dent’s team is fac­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into its deal­ings with Rus­sia.

Some Democrats wanted Judge Gor­such to com­mit to over­turn­ing one prece­dent on First Amend­ment pro­tec­tions of cam­paign speech, while also de­mand­ing he pledge fealty to other prece­dents on abor­tion rights.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, mean­while, said Democrats are still seething over the way Repub­li­cans treated Pres­i­dent Obama’s pick for the same seat, Judge Mer­rick Gar­land, whom the GOP re­fused to even grant a hear­ing, much less a vote.

Mr. Schumer said his de­ci­sion to launch the first-ever par­ti­san

fil­i­buster of a Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion was a fair re­tal­i­a­tion.

“The fact of the mat­ter is, Repub­li­cans blocked Mer­rick Gar­land us­ing the most un­prece­dented ma­neu­vers. Now we are likely to block Judge Gor­such, and that means that nei­ther party has got­ten their party’s choice in the last two years,” the New York Demo­crat said.

Mr. Schumer says he wants Mr. Trump to pull Judge Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion and in­stead find a new pick Democrats will agree to.

On Mon­day more Democrats an­nounced they’ll stand with Mr. Schumer, who now ap­pears to have at least 41 votes to sup­port the fil­i­buster.

Sen. Christo­pher A. Coons, a Delaware Demo­crat who’d de­layed tak­ing a stance un­til now, tried to cast his sup­port for the fil­i­buster as a marker for the next Supreme Court fight, say­ing he’s op­pos­ing Judge Gor­such in or­der to force Pres­i­dent Trump to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble next time.

Mrs. Fe­in­stein and Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy, two se­nior Democrats who’d also waited to an­nounce their de­ci­sions, both made clear they will vote against Judge Gor­such.

That leaves just four Democrats who have said they’ll join all 52 Repub­li­cans in sup­port. Sixty votes are needed to over­come a fil­i­buster.

Should Democrats suc­ceed in their fil­i­buster, Mr. McCon­nell would be forced to use the “nu­clear op­tion,” tak­ing ad­van­tage of a con­tro­ver­sial short­cut to change Se­nate rules and re­duce the thresh­old for over­com­ing a fil­i­buster from 60 votes to just a sim­ply ma­jor­ity.

Democrats went nu­clear un­der thenSe­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid in 2013 for Pres­i­dent Obama’s lower-court nom­i­nees, but left the fil­i­buster’s 60-vote thresh­old in place for Supreme Court de­bates.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, blasted Democrats for hypocrisy, say­ing if roles were re­versed, they would have done the same thing the GOP did last year in block­ing Judge Gar­land. And Mr. Gra­ham said Democrats would also be pre­par­ing to pull the nu­clear trig­ger now — in­deed, Mr. Reid said so late last year.

Mr. Gra­ham, who voted for both of Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court nom­i­nees, Jus­tice Elena Ka­gan and Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor, said Democrats’ gripes sounded like “the ar­son­ist com­plain­ing about the fire.”

“I find it ironic and sad that we’re go­ing to change the rules over some­body that’s lived such a good life — that’s been such a good judge for such a long time,” said Mr. Gra­ham. “There’s noth­ing wrong with him. There’s a lot wrong with mod­ern pol­i­tics and the Se­nate.”

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