Filling the seat of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has proved challenging since his sudden passing last February. Former President Barack Obama judiciously nominated Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified and worthy candidate, to fill the vacancy on the highest court of the nation. Despite Garland’s extraordinary credentials, the Republican party used their majority in the Senate to block his nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood firmly by his party’s decision to “give the people a voice in filling this vacancy.” McConnell and the Republican party desired to make the filling of Justice Scalia’s seat contingent on the outcome of the presidential election, with the spoils going to the victorious party.
McConnell’s gamble paid off for conservatives on November 8 when Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump won the election and when President Trump announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nomination. Nevertheless, we still find ourselves enmeshed in a procedural dilemma: Neil Gorsuch does not have the requisite votes in the Senate for his confirmation. Gorsuch needs 60 votes in favor of ending debate and commencing the final vote. The Republican majority has not tallied these 60 votes, as only two Democrats (Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp) have voiced their support for President Trump’s nominee.
Should Democrats fight the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch?
No, they should not.
For Democrats, swallowing this political defeat cannot be easy, as the taste of defeat still lingers on their tongues from the election and Republican efforts to block Judge Garland. However, doing so could be pivotal for the party and will help the politics of the country.
One could argue that it is politically tempting for Democrats to fight the nomination of Judge Gorsuch for two reasons. First, it would allow them to gain recompense for the Republican holdup of Obama’s nomination. Second, it would allow them to escalate and intensify the difficulties the Trump administration and Republican party are experiencing during their first months in power. But, for Democrats, this is not the right battle to pick.
A fight against the nomination of Judge Gorsuch is pointless and will only add to the political defeat Democrats have already experienced in their attempts to fill the Court’s vacancy. In fact, it would exacerbate their political defeat. With the Republican party reeling after the failure of their healthcare replacement bill, they are searching for a victory to claim. The Supreme Court will be their victory. Whether or not the Republican majority garners six more votes to push past procedural hurdles, they will nominate Judge Gorsuch. McConnell will use the nuclear option to assure the successful nomination of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Republicans have not politically domineered for this long to allow their gamble to fade away into the political abyss. They will change the senate rules to allow for cloture to be reached by only massing 50 votes, which, with their majority, will allow the for the swift nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. If Democrats allow this political outmaneuvering to occur again, their power and authority will be questioned.
With the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, Democrats also face the opportunity to appear as nonpartisan compromisers, as problem solvers. In a world where partisan politics are becoming more divisive, Democrats can outclass their Republican counterparts. Compromise in the handling of a Supreme Court justice should not prove Democrats to be feckless. For one, the Supreme Court presides above politics; and two, because Democrats have been adamant in their scorn for the current Administration and Republican majority.
Judge Gorsuch, like Judge Garland, is an exceedingly qualified candidate for the Supreme Court. He has demonstrated this in his career and throughout his trying nomination process. It would be refreshing for the country to see a respectful showing of bipartisanship. Democrats should take this opportunity to put duty before petty politics.