Senate Democrats say they are preparing to filibuster President Donald Trump's pick to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court—federal judge Neil Gorsuch—and Trump's opponents are ready to hold them to it.
Gorsuch, a Colorado federal appeals court judge known for opposing reproductive rights—specifically in the Hobby Lobby case that protected religious freedom above women's healthcare—and supporting the death penalty, "represents a breathtaking retreat from the notion that Americans have fundamental Constitutional rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who pledged to oppose him.
"If you breathe air, drink water or eat food, take medicine, or in any other way interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision—well outside the mainstream of American legal thought," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, another Oregon Democrat, promised the same, saying ahead of the announcement Tuesday, "This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat," referring to Senate Republicans' successful obstruction of former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
As Lucia Graves wrote at the Guardian, Democrats now have the chance to "return the favor by pushing Republicans to the legal limit, including making Republicans eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations."
Gorsuch's record is surely as objectionable to any good Democrat as Scalia's textualist approach to interpreting the Constitution ever was. But in fighting Gorsuch, Democrats have a chance to highlight more than that.
They have a chance to shed light on the fact that not only have Republicans successfully used gerrymandering and voter ID laws to skew electoral outcomes in their favor—they've also used every partisan trick in the book to get one more of their own in on the court that’s supposed to stand above partisan warfare.
Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org, likewise told Vox in an interview, "As long as the president is in flagrant disregard for the basic underpinnings of our republic, it is no time to consider a Supreme Court nominee. The next election is a while away, but what Senate Democrats do here and over the next few months will be seared into the memory of every Democratic voter."
In the lead-up to Trump's announcement, many described Gorsuch as the nominee most likely to follow in Scalia's legislative footsteps.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned in a statement Tuesday night that "Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women's rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court."
"The Senate must insist upon 60 votes for any supreme Court nominee, a bar that was met by each of President Obama's nominees," Schumer said. There are 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two left-leaning Independents currently in the chamber.
Trump has instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the "nuclear option" that eliminates the filibuster as a tool to block Supreme Court nominees if Democrats launch a formidable resistance; while McConnell has stopped short of agreeing, he has suggested that Democrats seek less than the full 60 votes.
"But Schumer is right to require them," Graves continued, "and what's more, his fellow Democrats should hold the line."
The notion "that Democrats should hold their fire in case Trump has the opportunity to fill another, more pivotal, seat down the road is naive given recent history," Graves wrote. "It's not an inconceivable or even unlikely scenario that Trump will have such an opportunity. But Democrats would be fools to stand down now in hopes that Republicans, admiring their magnanimity and bipartisan spirit would somehow reward them at some unspecified future date."
Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, added to Vox, "We want to see our leaders in Congress standing up as strongly to the Trump administration as we are in the streets and in airports across the country. Anything less than a complete and utter rejection of Trump's Cabinet appointees and of their Supreme Court appointees is absolutely unacceptable."