The ‘nuclear arsenal’
Republicans will likely face opposition with SCOTUS nominee
The strength of nuclear weapons is said to be in the power of deterrence rather than the actual use of the weapons.
However, when it comes to the U.S. Senate’s so called “nuclear option,” it is less about deterrence and more about steamrolling the other side.
When the Founding Fathers established the legislature, both the House of Representatives and the Senate allowed for unlimited speaking time as a way to ensure that every elected official had the opportunity to voice their opinion and to prevent tyranny of the majority.
However, as the House of Representatives grew, a rule limiting each representative’s speaking time was implemented.
In 1917, the Senate followed suit creating a rule that a two-third vote would invoke “cloture,” ending debate and putting the issue to a vote.
In 1975, the Senate again changed the rules so that only three-fifths, or 60 senators, are needed for ending debate.
The process of changing Senate rules would become known as the “nuclear option,” for while it might be the most expedient means of accomplishing a party’s immediate goals, it also is likely to backfire as eventually each party will yield its power back to the other.
In 2013, Democrats were the first to utilize their “nuclear arsenal,” changing Senate rules so that only a simple majority of 51 senators is needed to end debate for executive appointments and federal circuit court appointees.
However, this rule did not change the 60 votes needed to end debate on Supreme Court appointees or proposed legislation.
Now the “nuclear arsenal” is in the hands of the Republican Party as the decision rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on whether to change the rules again to allow President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch to pass through the Senate despite Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s promise to keep the Supreme Court seat empty.
“If they don’t appoint someone who’s really good, we’re going to oppose them tooth and nail,” Schumer said to MSNBC.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support, that we could support.”
There is one flaw in Schumer’s logic.
The 2018 election is expected to be damaging for the Democratic Party in the Senate and could be made even worse if Trump’s Supreme Court pick is railroaded.
In the next election the Democratic party must defend 23 Senate seats while the Republican party only has to protect eight.
Additionally, 10 of the Senate Democrats up for reelection are from traditionally red states such as Indiana and Montana and states that turned red in favor of Trump including Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
If eight of these Democrats join with Republicans to end debate on Gorsuch’s appointment, then the nuclear option can be avoided entirely.
It is important to note that a vote to end debate is not the same as a vote in favor of the appointment.
This means that Senate Democrats who vote to end debate will appease their constituents by allowing Gorsuch’s appointment to go to a vote while still being able to vote against his appointment and protect their position within their own party.
There is also the issue of the limited political ground that the Democrats have to stand on in opposition to Gorsuch’s appointment.
During his confirmation hearing for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals both Democrats and Republicans on the judiciary committee gave him a positive review, and no opposition was raised during the voice vote on the Senate floor.
If the Democrats seek to block Trump’s appointments for the next four years, they will not only show their own hypocrisy, but also how divided the country has become on party lines.
This opposition will also guarantee the need for the Republican Party to utilize the nuclear option as the political fallout grows.