The Corner

Law & the Courts

Chuck Schumer Learned Nothing from Harry Reid’s Greatest Mistake

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters during a news conference on Democrats’ demand for an extension of eviction protections in the next coronavirus disease aid bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Harry Reid’s decision to use the “nuclear option” and change Senate rules to push through Barack Obama’s nominees for district and appellate-court positions has been rightly mocked as one of the more glaring political blunders of the past two decades. That decision, which he said “had to be done,” has allowed Mitch McConnell to confirm nearly 160 of President Trump’s district-court nominees and 53 circuit-court nominees in a single term. It also set a precedent that made it easier for McConnell to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees when Democrats refused to vote for cloture on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

That refusal, spearheaded by Reid’s successor as the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has proven to be an almost equally moronic move. Gorsuch was always going to be confirmed. His impeccable credentials, impressive performance in his confirmation hearings, and the Republican majority in the Senate ensured that he would be elevated from his position as a judge on the Ninth Circuit. It was silly of Schumer to force McConnell to use the nuclear option in a context in which McConnell’s case for doing so was eminently reasonable. It didn’t appear as though McConnell was eager to break norms, it just seemed like he did what he had to do to confirm a qualified nominee over the minority’s obstructionism.

If Schumer had saved the filibuster for the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, he would have at least put increased political pressure on McConnell — considering the allegations levied against Kavanaugh — and possibly prevented Republicans from confirming Kavanaugh. He may even have helped Democrats gain instead of lose Senate seats in 2018. Moreover, the coming battle over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat might have a much more favorable backdrop for Democrats if Schumer had adopted this course.

Schumer should remember these follies as he warns that “nothing is off the table” if President Trump and Republicans in the Senate exercise their constitutional powers to nominate and confirm a new Supreme Court justice. He would be wise also to recall that they will be moving forward thanks to Reid and Schumer’s own miscalculations.

Most Popular

Books

Jordan Peterson v. the Publishing Mob

Staff at Penguin Random House Canada have “confronted management” about the decision to publish Jordan Peterson’s book in an “emotional town hall,” Vice reports. Peterson’s Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life will be released in March 2021. Apparently, one “junior employee who is a member of the ... Read More
Books

Jordan Peterson v. the Publishing Mob

Staff at Penguin Random House Canada have “confronted management” about the decision to publish Jordan Peterson’s book in an “emotional town hall,” Vice reports. Peterson’s Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life will be released in March 2021. Apparently, one “junior employee who is a member of the ... Read More
Elections

To ‘Steal’ an Election

Dan has a good article on the homepage, the main point of which is that the system worked, since Trump’s efforts to reverse the election failed. Certainly I agree with him about that. But he also finds charges that Trump tried to “steal” the election “overheated.” Since I made such a claim myself, I ... Read More
Elections

To ‘Steal’ an Election

Dan has a good article on the homepage, the main point of which is that the system worked, since Trump’s efforts to reverse the election failed. Certainly I agree with him about that. But he also finds charges that Trump tried to “steal” the election “overheated.” Since I made such a claim myself, I ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More