Democrats Aren’t Thinking Ahead to When They Might Need the Filibuster

by Jim Geraghty

Democrats Aren’t Thinking Ahead to When They Might Need the Filibuster

Ari Melber of MSNBC: “The GOP made the Garland debate about the seat and they won; Democrats making Gorsuch debate about the man and may lose.”

Change “may” to “will” and that’s a pretty good summation. This can end with Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and the Senate filibuster intact, or this can end with Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and the Senate filibuster nuked. Your call, guys.

Some Democrats may conclude that because it is likely that the filibuster will get nuked someday, they might as well get it over with and make Republicans nuke it now. But they do not appear to be thinking ahead to one not-so-crazy scenario.

When have Democrats come closest to victory in the Senate since January? You’d have to say the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education, where it was a 50-50 split and Vice President Pence had to come in to be the tiebreaking vote. Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were willing to cross party lines, demonstrating that Senate Republicans don’t march in lockstep. A GOP vote against a Trump administration nominee is rare, but it does happen. Democrats learned the hard way that they shouldn’t have nuked the filibuster for cabinet nominations and lower-court judges.

Suppose that in the coming year, one of the non-conservative/originalist/strict constructionist judges steps down or passes away. In September, Trump offered a list of 21 judges and legal minds and declared, “This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future Justices of the United States Supreme Court.” The only name on that list that isn’t likely to get 52 Republican votes is Mike Lee, because senators don’t usually vote for themselves as nominees.

But imagine that Trump picks someone else. We can skip past the nominations of Judge Judy, Pirro, Dredd, and Reinhold, but let’s assume Andrew Napolitano is right when he boasts that Trump is considering nominating him for the Supreme Court. Or Trump nominates his sister, or he nominates any figure who leaves conservative legal minds unnerved from a thin record or other flaws.

In other words, imagine Trump nominating his own version of Harriet Miers.

In that scenario, not only would Democrats be likely to have the votes to filibuster the nominee, but they might have some Republicans willing to join as well. Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans will nuke the filibuster without a second thought when it’s being used to block a sterling judge like Gorsuch.

Using the tactic now has persuaded even the most conciliatory Republicans that Democrats will filibuster any Trump nominee, regardless of his or her qualifications. As Senator Chuck Grassley — hardly a frothing-at-the-mouth bomb-thrower — writes today, “It’s become abundantly clear that if the Democrats are willing to filibuster somebody with the credentials, judicial temperament and independence of Judge Gorsuch, it’s obvious they would filibuster anybody.”

But what if the filibuster was used against some future nominee who generated reasonable, non-ideological objections? Then it would be a dramatically different story.

In other words, Democrats might want to use the filibuster later, in circumstances it’s more likely to work. Of course, this would require Senate Democrats to tell the party’s grassroots that they can’t always get what they want.

The Upcoming French Elections, and ‘Frexit’

Our Charlie Cooke traveled to France to preview the French national elections, less than three weeks away:

Politically, France is in a bad place. Under Hollande’s feckless leadership, the country has been attacked from both without and within and seen an average of 1 percent growth for almost half a decade. Unemployment among 15-to-24-year-olds is now at a staggering 25 percent and has led to an exodus that has rendered London the sixth-largest French-speaking city in the world. The reflexively proud French are no longer sure that they have a future. They are afraid for their economy. They are afraid of immigration. They are afraid of technology. There is, almost everywhere you go, a tangible sense of ennui. It is an uncertainty that does not suit the people that produced de Gaulle.

For the establishment, the consequences have been grim. As The Economist put it, this year’s primaries brought a “bonfire of the elites.” To have a familiar name in 2017 — be it “Hollande,” “Sarkozy,” or “Juppé” — is to carry a heavy weight around your neck. As in America, many voters are in a burn-it-down mood. And without a strong, “safe” option that can hoover up the middle, the extremists and opportunists have pounced.

Blame it on what you will — “populism,” “nationalism,” the revolt of the forgotten — the traditional French alliances are disintegrating before our very eyes. Why is it that so many are so worried that, this time, the execrable Le Pen family might finally get its hands on power? Because, this time, the support is coming from a variety of different places. The Front National has always had strongholds in the rural, revanchist South, but it is now converting the socialists in the Northeast, appealing to an unprecedented number of voters under 30, and winning over some key blocs of social conservatives who would historically have gone elsewhere. And, crucially, it is making its gains for a host of different reasons.

The Financial Times reports that polling shows 37 percent of respondents say they plan to sit out the first round of voting April 23.

Bloomberg finds the Front National gaining support even in an economically thriving shipyard community: “Saint-Nazaire is hardly a town in crisis. It’s an example of successful industrial renewal,” said Goulven Boudic, a political science professor at the nearby University of Nantes. “But the National Front has turned it into a land of conquest by raising concerns about the shipyard’s future, and by using the argument that foreign workers are taking bread away from French workers.”

Late last week, Senator Richard Burr, the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declared, “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections… So we feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world about what’s going on, because it’s now into character assassination of candidates.”

Marine Le Pen traveled to Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last week, and declared in a photo op, “We don’t want to influence events in any way.”

You thought we argued about polls here in the States? In France, a polling commission is declaring that Russian sources are putting out unreliable numbers:

Almost all media in France are drawing on polls that have shown since mid-February that Fillon, a former prime minister, is trailing in third place behind Macron and the Front National candidate, Marine Le Pen, for the 23 April first round. Third place would mean Fillon’s elimination from the 7 May runoff.

State-run Sputnik carried different findings in a report on 29 March under the headline: “2017 presidential elections: the return of Fillon at the head of the polls.”

It quoted Moscow-based Brand Analytics, an online audience research firm, as saying that its study based on an analysis of French social media put Fillon out in front.

In a statement, France’s polling commission said the study could not be described as representative of public opinion and Sputnik had wrongly called it a poll as defined by law in France.

“It is imperative that publication of this type of survey be treated with caution so that public opinion is aware of its non-representative nature,” it said.

Just think, here in the states we used to have Research 2000 for that sort of thing. Just another job that foreigners are taking way from the locals, I suppose.

A good closing thought from Charlie:

On the plane from New York, I am struck again by the chasm that has opened between the jet set and everybody else, and by the scale of the opportunity that has presented itself to the iconoclasts. I am on a British airline, and the in-flight magazine is aggressively cosmopolitan. The “Editor’s Note” celebrates, among other things, that a third of Londoners were born abroad. The featured interviewee argues that British television should shed its famous and traditional period dramas in favor of shows about immigrants. And the most prominent advertisement describes “dual citizenship” as “the insurance policy of the 21st century.” If “globalization” were to be parodied by the sharpest minds in the West, it would look a little like this. This, to paraphrase an American refrain, is how you got Brexit. It’s how you’ll get Frexit, too.

ADDENDA: Not as many April Fool’s Day jokes this year, huh? As I noted Saturday, reality has made the holiday sort of superfluous.

Want to know what it’s like to be a woman working for Mike Pence? Let our Ericka Anderson tell you.

Are you going to Atlanta for the NRA Annual Meeting? I am!

Thanks to everyone who listened to the return of the pop culture podcast, which includes the first little glimpse of an upcoming project. We’ll be doing another this week, then everything is on hold for Holy Week next week.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty