‘Nuclear’ detonation: Republicans roll back threshold to simple majority

nuclear optionSenate Republicans “went nuclear” Thursday, paving the way for confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, in what was described by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) as “the culmination of years of obstruction.”

The mainstream press immediately reported the action as “a dramatic rule change that could deepen partisan divisions and put more ideologically extreme justices on the court.”

But the “nuclear option” was itself a departure from the tradition of confirmation by simple majority, essentially invented by Democrats in 2013 under former Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was majority leader at the time. Here is how the Washington Post reported it that year when Democrats took action to push through Barack Obama’s nominees:

“Democrats used a rare parliamentary move to change the rules so that federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments can advance to confirmation votes by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote supermajority that has been the standard for nearly four decades.”

Thursday’s action could easily be called an “object lesson” for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), a perennial anti-gunner who has led the effort to prevent confirmation of Gorsuch. It came three days after the Chicago Tribune, in a scathing editorial, essentially told the Senate to knock off the theatrics and confirm Gorsuch.

Cornyn, in remarks on the Senate floor following the vote, said, “It’s been a long journey back to the normal functioning of the United States Senate.”

He called the Democrats’ filibuster “pointless.”

The final vote on Gorsuch will occur Friday, and it now appears a foregone conclusion that the federal judge from Colorado will fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than 14 months ago.

It was a defeat for Schumer and his Democrat colleagues in more ways than one. The rules are now changed for every future confirmation vote, and the Supreme Court balance has been restored so that it is less likely to see an “activist court” anytime in the future.

(Editor’s note: Conservative Firing Line owner Joe Newby discussed this issue with Rabbi Eric Walker earlier this month.  You can catch that interview below.)


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