President Donald Trump will nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Trump announced Tuesday night at the White House.Actually, that's not right. Gorsuch would be going into the seat occupied by Antonin Scalia, who died last year. Scalia was a brilliant conservative. By most accounts, Gorsuch is as well. His elevation to the Supreme Court doesn't change the calculus.
The nomination of Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal appellate judge from Colorado, gives Trump and Republicans the opportunity to confirm someone who could cement the conservative direction of the court for decades.
The Democrats have a decision to make. They are understandably bitter that the Republicans ashcanned their nominee, Merrick Garland, last year. Had Garland gone on the Court, the balance of power would have shifted decisively to the Left. That's not going to happen now. So if you're a Democrat, what do you do, especially with all the rent-a-mobs out on the streets protesting everything the Trumpster does? They can either try to stop Gorsuch, or they can keep their powder dry. If they try to block Gorsuch, Mitch McConnell will eliminate the filibuster entirely for judicial appointees, and that will be the end of it. After that, Trump would be able to put anyone he likes into the next slot. And that is where the real challenge for control of the Supreme Court comes, as it is reasonable to assume the next nomination will be to replace either Anthony Kennedy, who is the swing vote, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who holds down the left wing. Both are in their 80s, so their time may be running short. Meanwhile, Stephen Breyer will be 80 years old in less than two years. If Trump gets to replace any of these three Justices, the court will tip decisively to the right. And it's quite possible he'll get to replace all three.
The Republicans hold the majority in the Senate now. It's tenuous, but it's a majority. The Democrats have a number of senators in red states who will be up for reelection in 2018. Some of them, especially Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Jon Tester in Montana, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri, are going to be looking over their shoulders. Others who might have been safe otherwise, including a couple of big-time lefties, Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), also have reason to think twice about how to proceed.
Gorsuch has outstanding credentials and was named to the 10th Circuit by unanimous voice vote in 2006. This may not be the fight the Democrats want, nor the time. We're about to find out how much influence the freeway blockers really have in Washington.