We live in a country where the majority rules but the minority has rights. The same applies to the Senate. A sizable minority can block a bill by filibustering. It takes sixty votes to end debate, known as cloture.
This system worked well for many years. Until the 1970’s there had never been more than ten cloture motions in a year. As the divide between the parties grew, filibusters became much more common. Now we have reached a state of gridlock in which the minority party opposes almost everything the majority wants to do.
The first real crisis appeared in 2005 when Democrats began to filibuster Bush judicial appointees. Republicans threatened to end the filibuster (the nuclear option). A group of senators from both parties reached a compromise. In 2013 Harry Reid used the nuclear option to end filibusters on all presidential appointments, except for the Supreme Court. This was obviously shortsighted since Democrats now have no say on Trump’s appointments.
Now we have reached another crisis point. President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Democrats are livid because Republicans didn’t act on President Obama’s appointment last year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has threatened a filibuster. In response, Republicans are threatening to use the nuclear option.
Judge Gorsuch is certainly qualified to sit on the Court. He has served on the Court of Appeals since 2006. The Senate approved his nomination unanimously. Since he is replacing Judge Scalia, there is no change in the balance of the court. It makes sense to me for the Democrats to let the vote go through. If they don’t, they will have no influence at all on future appointments.
Partisans on both sides hate the filibuster. However, it provides some continuity in government. Otherwise, we will have 180 degree shifts every few years when parties change power. The minority should have some power in the world’s greatest deliberative body. With power comes responsibility. Blocking Gorsuch’s appointment would be irresponsible.
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