April 5 2017
Rutgers professor Ross Baker, who has written extensively on the U.S. Senate, deplores the Republican refusal to act on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. But now he believes Democrats may force the Senate Republicans into a move that could permanently harm the Senate--namely the use of the so-called nuclear option to get Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Writing in USA Today, Baker observes:
I wrote a modestly successful book that compared the Senate with the House and found the former to be a superior institution because of its historic responsibility to be the more deliberative and thoughtful chamber. One need only think back a week to the Obamacare repeal debacle in the House to appreciate the difference between the two.
Now the Senate Democrats want to take a step that weakens the Senate, impairs its ability to temper the impulsiveness of the House and, worse, further advantages the presidency at the expense of Congress — a lethal blow to the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers.
. . .
The Democrats could do a lot worse, and they will when the next vacancy occurs. By forcing McConnell to invoke the "nuclear option" of killing the filibuster, which blocks Senate business until 60 of the 100 senators vote to move on, they will lose on Judge Neil Gorsuch and on the next seat if it comes up during Trump's time in the White House. They will have handed the president two justices, and they will disable the Senate's emergency brake on all judicial nominations.
On the matter of the Gorsuch filibuster, Baker painfully finds himself in opposition to a senator and former senator to whom he is particularly close--former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who himself invoked the nuclear option for lesser nominations in 2013, and Patrick Leahy, who will provide the forty-first vote for a filibuster. But Baker urges the Democrats to pull back from the precipice:
When the men who wrote the Constitution created the Senate, they gave senators terms of six years to shield them from the very public indignation to which they are now, apparently, about to succumb. This reveals in these Democrats a sad lack of fortitude in the face of pressure. They are, moreover, yielding to the same fear that has intimidated so many of their Republican colleagues: becoming the victim of a primary election challenge from the most ideological members of their own party. It makes a person wonder whether a seat in the chamber is so precious that the overturning of a device that makes the Senate the Senate can be contemplated, much less acted on.
Were the Democratic senators to heed my advice and pull back from filibustering the consideration of Gorsuch, I could not promise them that it would initiate a golden age of bipartisanship; the cleavage in this country runs too deep. But those with the courage to reconsider would have the satisfaction of knowing that they did not erode the foundations of an institution that has always served as a bulwark against an aggressive presidency whose encroachments right now are very much to be feared.
Read the entire article.