Op-ed: Gorsuch and the ghost of Harry Reid

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Tuesday, April 4, 2017 10:26am
  • Opinion

What goes around comes around is one of life’s undeniable truisms and never more than in the politics of Washington, D.C. (the “D.C.” increasingly standing for dysfunctional city).

Last week was Cherry Blossom week in D.C. This week it’s Neil Gorsuch week. Republicans must now decide whether to use the “nuclear option,” a parliamentary procedure that allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes, as a tool for confirming President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For those whose primary diet is not politics, a little history will help explain the pedigree of the nuclear option.

The constitutional option has been around in one form or another for more than a century. Writing on the website Think Progress, Ian Millhiser references a Federalist Society article in 2004: “The basic mechanism was devised by Republicans in 1890 to defeat a Democratic filibuster of a bill permitting military intervention in Southern states that prevented African-Americans from voting.”

That in itself is interesting since the history of Democratic opposition to civil rights, especially in the South, has largely been forgotten as modern Democrats smear Republicans for their alleged “voter suppression” of minorities. But I digress.

Under the 1890 plan, notes Millhiser, “Sen. Nelson Aldrich (R-RI) proposed introducing a motion asserting that ‘when any bill, resolution, or other question shall have been under consideration for a considerable time, it shall be in order for any senator to demand that debate thereon be closed.’”

Aldrich then envisioned, notes Millhiser, “a series of steps where the presiding officer of the Senate would reject the process proposed by his motion, and a simple majority of the Senate would reverse the presiding officer’s decision.” The plan was never activated because “Democrats caved and allowed a vote on the bill out of concerns that Aldrich would succeed.”

That is the choice for Democrats this week with the Gorsuch nomination. Should enough of them vote to get to the 60-vote majority currently required for a Supreme Court nominee, or should they do what their liberal base is demanding and vote “no,” prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to change Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority?

Democrats don’t have a credible leg to stand on in opposing a change in Senate rules. That’s because their former Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), changed the rules to confirm federal judges nominated by President Obama by a simple majority over Republican objections.

“Power” is defined as the “ability to do or act” and having the “capability of doing or accomplishing something.” As long as Republicans have the majority, they should consider using their power. They have the numbers so they have the ability. The question is, are they capable enough to confirm Gorsuch with little support from Democrats?

Sometimes it appears Republicans are more concerned about negative press coverage, which they will get simply because they are Republicans, than about the wrath of voters. All politicians use power to advance their agenda. And now that Democrats are in the minority, they are using what little power they have, aided by their like-minded media colleagues, to stymie the Republican agenda.

If the nuclear option is necessary to confirm Judge Gorsuch, Republican senators should use it. And they should keep it for all federal judges, just as Democrats did with President Obama’s nominees. This is what Democrats fear most, because with a clear conservative majority on the Supreme Court and more conservatives on lower courts they could no longer expect judges, rather than legislators, to advance their agenda and they would have to be accountable to voters.

Sounds to me like a good option.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

Nurse Sherra Pritchard gives Madyson Knudsen a bandage at the Kenai Public Health Center after the 10-year-old received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: A mom’s and pediatrician’s perspective on COVID-19 vaccines for children

I want to see children and their parents who have yet to get vaccinated roll up their sleeves.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.