Chuck Schumer is playing a losing hand on Gorsuch unless he somehow gets a few Senate Republicans to bail him out. So he is talking about how McConnell is going to be to blamed for blowing up the Senate if the majority leader ends the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, in the hopes that a couple of Republicans blink and seek a foolish deal.
Of course, if Democrats successfully filibuster Gorsuch, they will be the ones engaged in an unprecedented act. Ed Whelan has been pointing out that there’s never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee (Abe Fortas was blocked by a bi-partisan coalition). The Washington Post and the New York Times both wrote the same thing the last couple of days (the Post: “No Supreme Court nominee has ever been blocked by a single-party filibuster”; the Times: “There has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee”).
Meanwhile, if McConnell ends the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, he will only be extending what Harry Reid did when he nuked the filibuster for other nominees in 2013. Here is Schumer unconvincingly trying to explain that away (remember, Schumer voted for the nuclear option): “We made one mistake, we shouldn’t have changed the rules for lower court judges … but we never did it for Supreme Court. This is a much bigger mistake on their behalf.”
It’s hard to believe, assuming no Republicans come to Schumer’s rescue, that he doesn’t understand what a mistake a successful filibuster against Gorsuch would be for his party. It would force McConnell to go nuclear and end any possibility of a Democratic filibuster of any future Trump Supreme Court nominees, who might not be as impressive, uncontroversial, or unifying across the GOP as Gorsuch has been. In short, this is a way for Democrats not just to lose on Gorsuch, but to ensure defeat in future Supreme Court fights, as well.
That’s why it wouldn’t be shocking if Schumer has in mind putting on a show of filibustering for the party’s base while coming up just short on the cloture vote. But given how whipped up their base is now, it’s not going to be easy to pull this off.