Trump Says ‘Go Nuclear’* as Democrats Gird for Gorsuch Fight
Photo: Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, center, met with Senator Mitch McConnell, left, the majority leader, and Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol on Wednesday. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times
Trump Says ‘Go Nuclear’ as Democrats Gird for Gorsuch Fight
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER
FEB. 1, 2017
WASHINGTON — The battle over President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, turned immediately explosive on Wednesday, as Mr. Trump urged Senate Republicans to abandon a 60-vote threshold for confirmation and leaders of both parties strained to navigate what could become the most contentious nomination fight in a generation.
Mr. Trump advised the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to “go nuclear” if necessary, referring to the so-called nuclear option that would scuttle the filibuster in favor of a simple majority vote on Judge Gorsuch, who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Colorado.
“That would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect,” Mr. Trump said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.’”
Democrats are grappling with their most consequential strategic decision to date in the age of Trump: how aggressively to oppose the president’s choice for a seat many believe was stolen from their party.
What is the “nuclear option”?
A Supreme Court nominee currently needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. The “nuclear option” would eliminate that threshold, meaning the nominee would need only a simple majority, a historic departure for the tradition-laden Senate.
In selecting a respected, plainly qualified and deeply conservative jurist, Mr. Trump has dared Democrats to pursue the kind of blanket obstructionism that they long accused Republicans of embracing during the Obama administration.
But for a party that has often struggled to match the fury and zeal of its base during the wave of anti-Trump activism since the election, a full-scale showdown may prove unavoidable, doubling as a referendum on resistance tactics to a White House that liberals fear and abhor.
Democrats intend to remind the public, with great frequency, about Republicans’ treatment of Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat last year, who was blocked from even receiving a hearing. Mr. McConnell had said a justice should not be seated during an election year, even though there is no prohibition on such action.
Now, their gambit successful, Republicans intend to capitalize on the groundwork laid since Mr. Trump’s election. Leading conservative groups have united for a multimillion-dollar campaign to help Judge Gorsuch, producing television commercials, planning gatherings at megachurches and contacting supporters to encourage them to demand a vote from their senators.
For Republicans who were leery of Mr. Trump’s campaign last year, the prospect of adding a conservative to the court was often a powerful motivator to stay in line. He has rewarded their faith.
On Wednesday, as Judge Gorsuch made his initial courtesy visits to senators on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers assumed the tone of a party in power, appealing for unity and adherence to Senate custom.
Judge Gorsuch’s first call after the announcement of his nomination was to Mr. Garland, as a gesture of respect, according to Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for the nomination effort.
The nominee was also joined on Wednesday by Kelly Ayotte, a well-liked former Republican senator from New Hampshire, who is helping to shepherd him through the nominating process months after losing her re-election bid.
After greeting Judge Gorsuch during his visit, Mr. McConnell asked Democrats to heed their own calls to restore the court to its rightful size.
“I would invite Democrats who spent many months insisting we need nine to join us in following through on that advice,” he said from the Senate floor.
So far, Democrats have appeared unmoved, and occasionally seething.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said Judge Gorsuch must meet the 60-vote threshold required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
History — and especially recent history — demand it, he suggested.
“This is nothing new. It was a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominations,” Mr. Schumer said. He argued that if Judge Gorsuch could not attract enough support, “the answer will not be to change the rules of the Senate, but to change the nominee to someone who can earn 60 votes.”
He said Mr. Trump’s White House had demonstrated “less respect for the rule of law than any in recent memory,” placing a “special burden on this nominee to be an independent jurist.”
Breaking a filibuster would require eight members of the Democratic caucus to join the 52 members of the Republican majority to advance the nomination, or force Republicans to change longstanding rules and push through the nomination on a simple majority vote.
Transfers of power from one party to the other often compel lawmakers to shift their perspectives, leaning on arguments they once rejected. But the bipartisan whiplash in the Senate has been especially striking.
Since Mr. Trump’s announcement, the two parties have rushed headlong into an embrace of the other’s former talking points. Republicans have cast Judge Gorsuch as an unassailable choice, as Democrats did with Judge Garland, trumpeting his appeals court record and his impressive credentials.
They reminded some Senate Democrats that they had voted to confirm Judge Gorsuch to a lower court once upon a time, as some Republicans had for Judge Garland. Senators like Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas — who, before the election, raised the possibility of blocking a nomination indefinitely if Hillary Clinton won the presidency — have insisted on swift action.
And some Democrats have argued, after nearly a year spent lamenting the vacancy on the court since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, that Judge Gorsuch must not be allowed to assume the seat.
“The Democrats should treat Trump’s SCOTUS pick with the exact same courtesy the GOP showed Merrick Garland,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter. “Don’t flinch, don’t back down.”
Reactions to Judge Gorsuch’s nomination among Democrats seemed to sort themselves into three camps: There were some cautious statements, often from moderate Democrats in states that Mr. Trump won, urging careful consideration of the pick. There were policy-based concerns raised about Judge Gorsuch’s trail of conservative opinions and leanings. And there were arguments that did not focus much on Judge Gorsuch at all, instead framing the choice of any judge not named Merrick Garland as illegitimate.
“This Supreme Court seat was stolen from the Obama administration.,” Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said on Wednesday. “It casts a big shadow over it. If this seat is filled in this manner, it’s going to undermine the integrity of the court, the legitimacy of the court, for decades to come.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Judiciary Committee, struck a more conciliatory note, to a point.
“Republicans were outrageously wrong in denying Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote. But two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said in an interview. “We should support a hearing and a vote for Neil Gorsuch. It’s part of the Senate’s job.”
He added, though, that Judge Gorsuch should be required to clear 60 votes.
In the interim, Democrats and progressive activists have begun zeroing in on elements of Judge Gorsuch’s record. Among their concerns is the fact that he has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who cited religious objections in refusing to provide some forms of contraception coverage to female workers.
Mr. Schumer said Judge Gorsuch had “repeatedly sided with corporations over working people” and demonstrated “a hostility toward women’s rights.”
Even before many Democrats weighed in, Republicans dismissed any complaints about Judge Gorsuch as empty posturing. Some senators were more creative than others.
“Senator Schumer is about to tell Americans that Judge Gorsuch kicks puppies and heckles piano recitals,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said.
That, he hastened to add, was untrue.
* 'Go Nuclear' doesn't really mean 'go nuclear'.
No one is going to nuke the Senate. The Republican just think of changing existing rule, requiring 60 votes to confirm the Supreme Court justice nominee, judge Neil Gorsuch, to a new rule of simple majority because they only have 52 votes in the senate of 100. The US once cheated the rule of war by dropping the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WW II. Likewise, the Republican wants to cheat the senate rule so they can have an easy war to win over the Democrat. That is politicspeak in Oceania in '1894'
คำว่า 'Go Nuclear' ไม่ได้หมายว่า 'go nuclear' และ ไม่ได้หมายว่า Donald Trump จะใช้ระเบิดนิวเคลียร์ถล่มวุฒิสภาเพราะเสียงไม่ถึง 60 ไม่พอที่จะรับรองการแต่งตั้งผู้พิพากษาศาลสูงสุดคนใหม่ (Judge Neil Gorsuch) ที่เขาเสนอชื่อได้ ในวุฒิสภาสหรัฐฯปัจจุบัน พรรค Republican มีเสียงข้างมาก 52-48 แต่ข้อบังคับการประชุมกำหนดให้ต้องได้ 60 เสียง จึงจะชนะผ่านการรับรองการแต่งตั้งผู้พิพากษาศาลสูงสุดได้ เมื่อเสียงไม่พอ 60 พรรค Democrat ก็จะอภิปรายค้านถ่วงเวลาแบบไม่ยอมหยุดสามวันแปดคืน (ซึ่งสำนวนไทยก็ไม่ได้หมายว่า 3 วัน กับ 8 อีกต่างหาก จะหมายถึงกี่วันกี่คืนไม่รู้จุดจบ) การอภิปีรายค้านแบบพูดพล่ามน้ำท่วมทุ่งเพื่อค้านแบบหัวชนฝานี้ เป็นประเพณีการอภิปรายในรัฐสภาอังกฤษและอเมริกา เรียกว่า 'filibuster' ดังนั้นหากพรรค Republican เปลี่ยนกฎ - ซึ่งสามารถทำได้โดยใช้เสียงข้างมากแบบธรรมดาเท่านั้นในการขอเปลี่ยนกฎการลงคะแนน - ก็จะทำให้ให้การรับรองการแต่งตั้งผู้พิพากษาศาลสูงสุดไม่ต้องได้คะแนนถึง 60 ได้ ได้แค่ 51 เสียง ก็พอ วิธีการนี้เหมือนกับการทิ้งระเบิดนิวเคลียร์กวาดล้างกฎเกณฑ์เก่าหมดราบเรียบ จึงเป็นที่มาของคำว่า 'Go Nuclear' ในวุฒิสภา.
Michael D. Shear and Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.
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