When John McCain boasted recently that he and other Republican senators would fight any Supreme Court nomination by Hillary Clinton, it represented the final blow to the old bipartisan tradition of comity toward qualified and non-extremist SCOTUS nominees. And so it was no real surprise today when outgoing Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid predicted confidently that if his party regained control of the upper chamber, the filibuster against confirmation of appointees to the high court would quickly become a thing of the past.
Envisioning Hillary Clinton in the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate, Reid warned that if a Senate Republican minority blocked her Supreme Court nominee, he is confident the party won’t hesitate to change the filibuster rules again (no, Reid won’t be in the Senate to make that decision, but he is the ultimate informed source on this topic).
“I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority,” Reid told Talking Points Memo. “They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion,” Reid said, snapping his fingers. “So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”
Such a move would be an extension of what Reid did in 2013 when he was still majority leader, eliminating filibusters (with a simple majority vote) on the president’s nominees. There was only one exception: the Supreme Court. As it stands now, Democrats still need 60 votes to move forward with a Supreme Court nominee.
It is possible, I suppose, that enough Republican votes for a Clinton SCOTUS nominee could be cobbled together to avoid this extension of the so-called “nuclear option.” But there is not much point in maintaining the fiction that a 60-vote threshold for anything in the Senate is the natural course of events. Depending on what happens with the House, Democrats may well decide to nuke the filibuster for regular legislation as well. A quick and final death for that instrument of obstruction might be best. It would fit right in with the continuing series of 50th anniversaries for the great events of the civil-rights movement.