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Should The GOP Trade ACA Repeal For Gorsuch?

  • Calvin Wolf
  • Mar 23, 2017 11:59AM

Two major political issues are bouncing around right now in the U.S. Senate. The first is the proposed American Care Act, which would repeal and replace Obamacare. Right now, it appears down for the count, with 21 Republicans in the House of Representatives publicly against the bill and five more House Republicans reportedly leaning toward “no.” In the Senate, two Republicans have publicly said they will not vote for it, and several more seem substantially inclined to join them. The second issue is Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who is undergoing his second day of testimony before the Senate.

Gorsuch, while still decidedly unpopular among liberals, is holding his own during this confirmation hearing. In comparison to other Donald Trump nominees, he is a relative moderate and, soothingly, has an attractive resume. With Ivy League credentials, including graduating in the same Harvard Law class as former President Barack Obama, and time as both a Justice Department employee and federal appeals judge, plus a stint in the private sector, Gorsuch appears to be a consummate professional jurist.

With Gorsuch, Trump chose well. He did not antagonize the left by picking a radical and/or rookie like Betsy DeVos or Ben Carson. But, having blocked Barack Obama’s own Supreme Court nominee back in 2016, the Republican Party will win no love from Dems. Controversially, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to vote on Obama nominee Merrick Garland and insisted that the next president, who ended up being Donald Trump, should pick the individual to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia on the bench.

Democrats have not forgotten the stonewalling, but do not have the power to stop Gorsuch’s confirmation. If a controversial neophyte like Betsy DeVos managed to get approved as Secretary of Education, Neil Gorsuch would easily net the GOP’s 52 votes in the Senate. But the Dems can make it tough, especially if they decide to filibuster. With the Senate strictly divided by party lines, the Republicans will not be able to muster the required 60 votes to end a filibuster.

To prevent a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will have to exercise the “nuclear option” of changing the standing Senate rules. Although McConnell has the votes to do it, since the GOP has a majority, the controversial maneuver could hurt the Republican Party’s public image at a time when it is already eroded. It would look like the Republicans are changing the rules in the middle of the game. In addition to reeking of unfair play, such a move could also hurt the Republicans later if and when the Democrats gain control of the Senate.

Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to risk going down in history as the Senate Majority Leader who destroyed the Senate’s traditions… and gave Democrats the guilt-free ability to shut down future Republican filibusters. The Dems would always be able to point the finger and say that it was the GOP that changed the rules and should have to reap what they sowed.