Democrats will probably overwhelmingly oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That’s a reflection of the party’s growing conviction that all-out opposition to the Republican agenda is a winning political strategy.
Their role model is Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who for eight years had one objective: thwart President Barack Obama at every turn. That strategy culminated with the decision last year to reject the Supreme Court nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland without even giving him a hearing.
Politics more than merit will dominate the debate.
The early odds are that Republicans won’t be able to get enough Democratic allies to gather the 60 votes required to break a filibuster against the Gorsuch appointment. That means it’s likely that McConnell will change the rules to allow confirmation by a simple Senate majority. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate, 52 to 48.
Just two weeks into the Trump administration, congressional Democrats are concluding that Trump has decided to be a polarizing president, playing to the passionate support of the minority of voters who put him in the White House and content to antagonize most of the others.
Many of Trump’s campaign promises, like huge tax cuts tilted to the wealthy accompanied by reductions in domestic spending for the poor, will be easy for most Democrats to oppose. Most, perhaps all, of Trump’s Cabinet nominees will be confirmed, though a few, including education secretary-designate Betsy DeVos, are raising hackles even with some Republicans. It takes a simple majority to approve these nominees, meaning Democrats would have to pick up three Republican votes to block an appointment.
Gorsuch is widely admired for his intellect among conservative judicial experts, and there’s no doubt he is well qualified. But Democrats will counter that Garland was equally distinguished.
If Gorsuch, a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, is eventually approved, it won’t much change the ideological composition of the court since he would replace the conservative Antonin Scalia. But Democrats figure the departure of aging justices could create several more vacancies. So they want to make an all-out effort this time.