Trump wanted the Senate to act. But the Republicans didn’t have the votes. The Democrats threatened to filibuster. So, the Republicans needed 60 votes.
No, I’m not talking about the Continuing Resolution in January 2018. I’m talking about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be the 101st Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. So, on February 1, 2017, President Trump called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the filibuster rule. For a few months, McConnell threatened the Democrats…. Don’t filibuster or I will exercise the nuclear option and eliminate the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominations. The Democrats did not blink and on April 6, 2016, the Republican-led Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to change its long-standing rules in order to prohibit a procedural tactic called a filibuster against Supreme Court nominees. On April 10, 2017, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as the 101st Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
It’s not about the Democrats. It’s not about the military. It’s not about money. It’s not even about the Republicans. It’s about power. It’s about Mitch McConnell and the love of power. It’s not even really about Trump (though he has a role and a responsibility). It was never about a government shutdown and it was never about the filibuster either. It was always about power.
On February 13, 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court. As we know, President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Mitch McConnell refused to consider the nomination. But, when President Trump nominated Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch in January 2017, McConnell was ready to usher Gorsuch through the Senate processes and procedures. Why? Allegedly so the Supreme Court could return to full strength.
422 days. That’s how long the Supreme Court of the United States was with only eight justices. And how did that shortage incapacitate the Court:
- In the 2013 term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued 75 decisions with 9 Justices.
- In the 2014 term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued 74 decisions with 9 Justices.
- In the 2015 term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued 80 decisions with 9 Justices.
- In the 2016 term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued 70 decisions with 8 Justices.
A year later. The government has run out of authorization to spend money. The sky is falling! There’s going to be a government shutdown! The Democrats are holding America hostage!
January 20, 2018, President Trump tweeted: “Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border. They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!” Twenty-seven minutes later, he tweeted again: “For those asking, the Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate, and they need 60. That is why we need to win more Republicans in 2018 Election! We can then be even tougher on Crime (and Border), and even better to our Military & Veterans!” And finally: “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”
To paraphrase and summarize: Democrats… don’t care about Military or Safety… could have easily made a deal… but decided to play Shutdown politics… Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate, and they need 60… Democrats are holding our Military hostage…
Absolutely none of those statements are true. First of all, the use of identity politics (in this case Democrats versus Republicans) ignores the fact that five Democrats voted for the Continuing Resolution (Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin West Virginia, and Joe Donnelly Indiana) and four Republicans voted against the resolution (Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky). Also, the Senate Democratic leadership did offer the president a deal. Therefore, in this case, the Republican leadership had 52 votes.
Then there is the accusation of “holding hostage.” If McConnell and Trump thought the efficacy of the Supreme Court was so imperiled because the court only issued 70 decisions with 8 Justices, then perhaps the inability of the government to spend money and the subsequent “Shutdown” is worth ending the legislative filibuster as well?
In fact, on May 30, 2017. Trump tweeted: “The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!”
On July 29, 2017, Trump tweeted: “Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!”
As recently as September 15, 2017, Trump tweeted: “With the ridiculous Filibuster Rule in the Senate, Republicans need 60 votes to pass legislation, rather than 51. Can’t get votes, END NOW!”
In fact, the recently lapsed spending authorization was just passed on September 28-29, 2017. More than enough time to plan out the elimination of the legislative filibuster as McConnell did to the confirmation filibuster from February to April 2017.
So, it is not the Democrats. It is not even Trump. It is squarely Senator McConnell’s inability or unwillingness to forge a legislative deal (Speaker Ryan and President Trump agreed on a deal with the House Freedom Caucus to ensure their 20 votes for the CR). So, why no elimination of the filibuster? Is the US Military not as important as Neil Gorsuch to McConnell?
No. Based upon the preponderance of the evidence, the US Military is not as important as Neil Gorsuch to McConnell. Period. What is important to McConnell is maintaining the legislative filibuster, so that he can keep the Democrats in place as a Straw Soldier to further his own posturing, political rhetoric, and potentially his own powers as the Minority Leader after the 2018 Elections.
Last night, Senator McConnell said, “A government shutdown was 100 percent avoidable. Completely avoidable. Now it is imminent,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor following the vote. “Perhaps across the aisle some of our Democratic colleagues are feeling proud of themselves, but what has their filibuster accomplished? . . . The answer is simple: Their very own government shutdown.”
No, Mitch buddy, this is your shutdown.