Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that Democrats will filibuster during the Neil Gorsuch confirmation vote this Friday. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell may have no choice but to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to permit confirmation by a simple majority vote. The change of the rules could have a significant long term impact, and could all but guarantee an ideological shift on the federal bench. With Republicans having 52 seats in the Senate, Gorsuch is all but confirmed if this happens — but his appointment and the related Senate rule overhaul may change the high court forever.
What’s the impact of a rule change? We may see more partisan judges ascending to bench in the future. Whether a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House, you can expect the nomination of judges that will appeal to the base. This change could lead to a more polarized court, and decisions that are more extreme on the right or the left. Eventually, this could put controversial decisions like Roe v. Wade or a long line of First Amendment cases in play.
Dems are still fuming over Merrick Garland, and this filibuster is frankly likely more about political retribution than Gorsuch’s qualifications. As Democrats think through the long-term stakes, will they blink? All of this will come to a head next week in dramatic fashion.