If Republicans persist in holding up Supreme Court nominees, Democrats may try to overturn the filibuster altogether, the outgoing minority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, warned on Monday.
“They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion,” Reid told Talking Points Memo, snapping his fingers.
Democrats, then in the majority, eliminated the filibuster for presidential appointments in 2013, after Republicans have blocked hundreds of President Barack Obama’s federal agency and court nominees.
The Supreme Court was exempt from those changes. The majority still needs sixty votes to end a filibuster and confirm a nominee to the high court.
In March, the president nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace the right-wing Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, who died in February.
Republicans have refused to even give Garland a hearing, let alone vote on his candidacy, although his judicial views are considered middle-of-the-road.
John McCain, a Republican senator, recently boasted that his party would similarly thwart any Supreme Court appointments made by Hillary Clinton, Obama’s likely successor.
There used to be a tradition of the minority party confirming presidential appointments without a fuss.
There also used to be a tradition of using the filibuster sparingly.
Republicans have broken with both norms, using every constitutional means at their disposal to frustrate President Obama since he came to power in 2009.
Republicans will undoubtedly cry foul if Democrats make good on Reid’s promise, but it’s they who ended century-old traditions of bipartisanship and compromise for short-term political gain.
The only surprise is that it took Democrats this long to accept those traditions are dead.