WASHINGTON — President Trump’s Supreme Court pick — set to be announced tonight — will spur a fierce Senate battle that could backfire on the Democrats who are threatening to filibuster over the nominee.
That gambit would force the GOP to use the so-called “nuclear option,” allowing the high court hopeful to be appointed with a simple majority vote of 50 senators plus one — instead of the 60 votes now required. Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has promised to block any contender out of the mainstream, while U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., went a step further yesterday, saying “the Senate must oppose” any Trump pick. He also promised to filibuster anyone other than Merrick Garland, the D.C. circuit court judge nominated by former President Obama last year and blocked by Senate Republicans from receiving a hearing.
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White House spokesman Sean Spicer shot back, saying Democrats were using the high court to “play political games.”
“(Trump) met with a bunch of Senate Democrats to talk about the qualities they want in a judge. And before they even heard who this individual is, you’ve got some of them saying ‘absolutely no,’ ” Spicer said.
“I mean, that just shows you that it’s all about politics, it’s not about qualification,” he said. “The president has a right to have his nominees taken up.”
The nuclear option was last used in 2013 by former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid when the Democrats held the same 52-48 advantage in the Senate. That’s when Reid dropped the threshold needed to move along lower-court judges and executive nominees.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not said whether he plans to pull off the same maneuver in the face of the promised filibuster, but Trump has urged him to do so.
Others have expressed concerns about Trump’s vow to only select nominees to the court who promise to uphold the 2008 DC v. Heller decisions striking down gun control regulations, and to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“No matter who the nominee turns out to be, there is concern (about) that person not being able to rule independently or impartially,” said Lena Zwarensteyn, director of strategic engagement at the progressive American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
One of the reported front-runners on Trump’s short list, Waltham native and federal appellate Judge Thomas Hardiman, would be another first — the only justice on the bench who did not graduate from an Ivy League school.
The two others are 10th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, the son of President Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Protection Agency chief Anne Gorsuch, and 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, who once called the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
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