Shortly after President Donald Trump assumed office, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans had refused to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for the same position.
Democrats filibustered Gorsuch’s nomination, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) used the “nuclear option” to remove the Democrat's chance to filibuster. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had previously used this tactic to end Republican’s ability to filibuster Obama’s lower court nominees.
After Gorsuch was nominated, according to The New York Times, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) approached Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and pleaded with him not to filibuster Gorsuch because she knew what it would lead to.
“Please, don’t do it this time,” Collins reportedly said to Bennet.
But Democrats went ahead with their filibuster, still seething over Republicans refusal to hold a hearing on Garland.
“I never understood the strategy,” Mr. Bennet told the Times. “We achieved nothing by filibustering Judge Gorsuch except giving Mitch McConnell the opportunity to strip us of our ability to filibuster a nominee who will cause a dramatic shift in the balance of the court.”
Bennet voted against Gorsuch.
Because Gorsuch would just be replacing another conservative member of the court, some senators on both sides of the aisle argued, Democrats should avoid wasting the filibuster and inevitable “nuclear option” for when the ideological balance of the court was being decided.
Now the Democrats are left with few options to stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, from being confirmed. Their only hope is for all 49 of their members to vote "no" — which is unlikely, given that three Democrats voted for Gorsuch and are running for re-election in Red States — and for at least one Republican to defect.
After a rational discussion of the wasted filibuster, the Times’ Carl Hulse then proceeded to lay the blame for Democrats’ current predicament on Republicans during the Obama administration. It’s a common issue for left-leaning outlets, who appear to believe that history started with Obama. As Ed Whelan, president of the right-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted on Twitter, Democrats filibustered nominees during President George W. Bush’s administration.
Marc Thiessen, former speechwriter for Bush, explained what happened back then in a column for The Washington Post. Democrats began “unprecedented filibusters” against qualified Bush nominees to the appellate courts. A memo obtained by The Wall Street Journal found liberal interest groups urging Democrat senators to filibuster Bush nominee Miguel Estrada because they believed he was being groomed for the Supreme Court and they didn’t want a Republican to be the first to nominate a Latino to the highest court in the nation.
“They did not stop with Estrada. Democrats also filibustered nine other Bush circuit-court nominees, all of whom had majority support in the Senate,” Thiessen wrote.
Thiessen then wrote that under Obama, Democrats attempted to push through radical left-wing judges that could never get 60 votes. Republicans filibustered, and Reid removed the filibuster for lower court nominees, allowing the Obama administration to flip circuit courts from conservative to liberal.
That precedent set up the current fight on Capitol Hill, but you wouldn’t know that from reading The New York Times.