Gorsuch confirmation battle will be different

February 4, 2017

 

In an op-ed in The Hill, Curt Levey writes that the "tried-and-true playbooks may turn out to be of little use in this contest, but ... the game will be gripping. He's talking not about the Super Bowl, but about the battle over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Writing from the perspective of a "dozen years of watching these battles from up close," Mr. Levey discusses "the unique aspects of this confirmation fight," including:

  • "The flow of previous Supreme Court confirmation battles has been driven largely by senators on both sides, with the president remaining fairly quiet after his initial introduction of the nominee. This confirmation process may well be different, with President Trump's tweets and other remarks driving the flow."

  • "Democrats [will] focus this battle on President Trump as much as on the nominee. ... At a minimum, Senate Democrats will use their questions during Gorsuch's week-long confirmation hearings to indirectly attack the president. ... Don't be surprised if Democrats question Trump's legitimacy to make Supreme Court nominations and hold Gorsuch's nomination hostage to extraneous demands on the president."

  • "In previous contests, Democrats have had no prior Supreme Court confirmation grievances to rally around. This time will be different. Expect to hear Merrick Garland's name mentioned as often as Neil Gorsuch's."

  • "Another unique aspect of this contest is its occurrence at the very beginning of a presidency, before the Justice Department and White House are fully staffed."

Should Democrats attempt to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, "Senate Republicans will likely react by invoking the 'nuclear option' to permanently eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations." That would be another unique aspect of this confirmation fight. However:

 

"If Democrats are smart, they will save a filibuster attempt for the higher stakes game of replacing Justices Ginsburg or Kennedy. ... In the end, the most likely Democratic strategy is to simply delay the confirmation process in an attempt to prolong the theatrics and in the hope that negative information about Gorsuch can be uncovered."

 

Finally, Levey notes that:

 

"Despite the unique aspects of this confirmation fight, there is a favorite page in the Democratic playbook that will almost surely be turned to again. It instructs that white male judicial nominees be portrayed as a danger to women, minorities, or some other identity group. ... Because this tactic aligns perfectly with the Democrats' 'Trump is a bigot' theme and provides raw meat to feed an angry base, it will be irresistible."

 

Read Mr. Levey's full op-ed here

 

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