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Senate Dems thinking about backing off filibuster of Trump's Supreme Court pick — here's why
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Senate Dems thinking about backing off filibuster of Trump's Supreme Court pick — here's why

Democrats are apparently now getting cold feet over their vow to filibuster President Donald Trump's soon-to-be-announced Supreme Court pick.

The president said Monday that he would formally announce Tuesday night his nominee to fill the open high court seat once held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Afterward, Senate Democrats announced that they would filibuster any nominee who is not Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's choice to fill the opening.

Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) told reporters Monday: "This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat. We will use every lever in our power to stop this."

But it appears Democrats might now be changing their minds on the matter.

According to CNN, Democrats discussed during a private retreat in West Virginia last week that it might not be wise to use their political capital to block the nominee for Scalia's seat. Instead, the lawmakers considered that it might be better to save their fight to fill a progressive justice's seat, like that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, or Stephen Breyer, 78.

It is worth noting, too, that Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote in the Supreme Court, is 80.

The reason for the Democrats' walk back is based on their fear that Republicans might do away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. If the GOP eliminates the rule, it gives Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the so-called "nuclear option," which requires only a simple majority of 51 votes — rather than 60 — to sidestep the filibuster.

In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked the "nuclear option," lowering the vote threshold to eliminate the threat of filibusters for executive branch appointees and all other judicial nominations except the Supreme Court.

Without the filibuster, Democratic lawmakers could lose leverage in the next Supreme Court battle if Trump were to fill a seat vacated by a liberal justice.

That doesn't mean, however, that the left has forgotten or forgiven the Republicans' obstruction of Garland.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN he is still angry about the Republican majority's refusal to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on Obama's nominee for more than a year.

"But I'm not going to do to President Trump's nominee what the Republicans in the Senate did to President Obama's," Coons said. "I will push for a hearing, and I will push for a vote."

Some Democrats, however, believe they could block Trump's Supreme Court nominee for up to a year in retaliation over the Republicans' decision to do the same with Garland.

McConnell, for his part, has consistently been wary of nuking the filibuster, telling Politico last week of a potential Senate rule change, "That’s not a presidential decision. That’s a Senate decision."

"What I’ve said to him, and I’ve stated publicly and I’ll say today: We’re going to get this nominee confirmed," he added.

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