Senate Dems Have Strategic Options On SCOTUS Pick | WGLT

Senate Dems Have Strategic Options On SCOTUS Pick

Feb 1, 2017

Members of the group People For The American Way rally in front of the United States Supreme Court in opposition to the Neil Gorsuch nomination, January 31, 2017
Credit Elvert Barnes / Flickr

President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court is pledging to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and the laws of the United States. 

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch is also thanking Trump for giving him a ``most solemn assignment.''  If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death nearly a year ago created a vacancy on the nine-member court. 

But Gorsuch's selection is expected to spark a fierce fight with Democrats.  Meghan Leonard, associate professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, said during Sound Ideas Democrats in the Senate have to carefully choose their confirmation hearing strategy.

"Certainly many Democrats in the senate are not happy with the Trump presidency and how it's gone so far, and there are some that are saying 'no' to whomever Trump nominates, as long as it's not (former Obama nominee) Merrick Garland," said Leonard.

The Republicans need 60 votes in the senate to approve Gorsuch.

"If they can't get those 60 votes, they can actually get rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations," said Leonard. "While this would get them the Gorsuch pick, it would also stop the filibuster from happening in the future. So the Democrats risk, by continuing a filibuster, to never have that option again," said Leonard.

She said many Democrats might be willing to give in on Gorsuch, since his appointment would not significantly change the ideological make-up of the court. They would do this, she said, because their ability to stop a future pick that could change the court's philosophical construct would remain.

"If one of the older liberal or centrist justices leaves the court, this would give Trump and the Republican majority in Congress the ability to change the court's ideology with only 50 votes," said Leonard.