As expected the Democrats are in full hissyfit mode over the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill what they are wailing was “Merrick Garland’s stolen seat” or something. First off, it’s not. It didn’t belong to him and it didn’t belong to Barry and honestly it didn’t belong to Antonin Scalia either. Moving on.
Reports are that even early on there are enough Democratic defectors (notably those facing re-election in red states in 2018) to give Gorsuch 59 votes in the Senate, just one shy at the moment from breaking through any Democratic filibuster and getting him confirmed straight-up without any undue fussing. Donald Trump has also tapped Mitch McConnell on the shoulder and told him “if they give you trouble, go nuclear.” And for all the leftists wailing their eyes out over Donald Trump getting the nuclear launch codes, this nuclear key was handed to Trump and the Republicans by none other than Harry Reid.
What the “nuclear option” refers to is a rule change in the Senate to remove the ability of the minority party (the Democrats at the moment) to hold up Senate action by means of the filibuster, which is a procedural tactic enabling any Senator to debate and speak his mind on a pending bill or nominee as long as he wishes until there is a cloture vote, which is a motion to close debate. Cloture requires sixty votes out of the hundred in the Senate. You may have heard of a “talking filibuster” which is when a Senator takes the floor and does not yield it by virtue of his physical presence there, which is usually done as a publicity stunt and last-minute delaying tactic because it can only last as long as the Senator can (recently famously done by Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Wendy Davis in Texas, all with negligible real effect). Usually a filibuster is just understood and nobody actually has to stand up and talk for hours. Once it’s done, most matters can clear the Senate on a simple majority vote (like confirming a nominee).
The “nuclear option” is a rule change that the majority party has the power and right to make, so referred to because, well, once you invoke it, you can’t go back. Like anything else referred to colloquially as a “nuclear option,” it’s the action you take only when you’re damn sure you have no other options and you’re willing to deal with the consequences. The filibuster is probably the last relic of congeniality and political collegial respect left in the Senate, if not all of Washington D.C., in that it recognizes the rights of the minority and the desire to reach solutions that work for everybody when the control of the Senate is only slightly tilted to one side (as it is right now with a small GOP majority). Of course if the Senate is overwhelmingly controlled by one party as it was in 2008, even the filibuster becomes a nonissue.
But here’s the thing folks: the “nuclear option” has already been invoked. Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader (and more recently Senate minority leader), did it prior to the 2014 midterms with regard to all presidential appointments except Supreme Court nominees. As the option was under consideration, the rabid left screamed for it to be done to end “GOP obstruction” of Barry’s glorious people’s agenda while the right (and a lot of moderates) warned that hey, you guys are not going to be the majority forever. If you do this, there’s no reason anymore for the Republicans not to do it right back whenever they get the Senate and the Presidency, or even to take it further. Reid basically replied with his best Emperor Palpatine laugh and said “that’s never going to happen” as he hit the big red button and nuked the filibuster. As Reid prepared to leave office, believing as many did that he was going to watch his party’s glorious ascension with Her Inevitableness taking the presidency and the Democrats recapturing the Senate, he bragged that he had laid the groundwork for the Democrats to repeat the process and nuke again, this time to remove any obstacles to Hillary’s Supreme Court picks.
Well we all know how that worked out for them.
I understand that some old guard Republican senators are holding out hope that the nuclear option will not be necessary because of sentimental or even romantic ideas about tradition and history surrounding the rule and practice. I get that and in a way I even sympathize. But the reality is this: the Democrats have gone nuclear. They have outright stated they would go nuclear again. There is no reason to stay our hand any longer. There is absolutely no reason to believe that our forbearance will go both ways. Because like an actual nuclear deterrent, the only thing that can keep a hostile nuclear-armed power from launching against its enemies (other than basic morality which the Democrats laugh at) is the oft-maligned but utterly correct theory of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Imagine if you will, a war in which nuclear weapons were deployed against another nuclear power, but rather than retaliate, the nation that got nuked first chose instead to naively hope that their adversaries would not choose to nuke them again, and refused to launch against the nuclear aggressor. The war isn’t over, they’re still enemies and they’re still fighting conventionally, but the side that got bombed doesn’t change its tactics in the face of the crippling blow they took. They don’t fire back even though they have the power to do so. What do you think the reaction of the aggressor nation would be? Obviously the army that had no qualms about upsetting the balance and taking the risk of retaliation along with the consequences of wreaking such destruction would have no issue doing so again when their enemy still proved to be intractable, and in fact would have MORE incentive to deploy nukes to try to finish the other nation off before the non-nuking army comes to its senses. In the classic Cold War black comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” the plot focuses around a rogue American nuclear bombing run and a Russian doomsday device that will respond to any nuclear attack against the Soviet Union by irradiating the entire surface of the Earth. It was meant to be a deterrent, but went online before the Russian Premier could announce it to the world (according to the Soviet ambassador, he loved surprises). The result was one of the bombers couldn’t be reached in time to halt its attack and, well, game over.
Well, Harry Reid knew about the doomsday device. He fired anyway. If we respond by linking arms, smoking weed and singing “give peace a chance” then we’re just inviting them to do it again, which they have stated in no uncertain terms they are prepared to do. The die has been cast and the gauntlet thrown down. We’re already nuclear and the other side is just waiting to reload their empty silos and hit us again. I don’t suggest we should scrap the rule right this second, it still has some value in terms of publicity and giving them one less thing to cry at us about, but when push comes to shove, nothing should stop Neil Gorsuch from taking this seat or any other Trump nominee from taking office, because no Democrat nominee will ever be stopped again. They have made that clear. Mourn if you must for what has been lost but don’t delude yourselves, we didn’t pull this trigger. We did not step across the line, but if we don’t meet them now, they WILL do it again and again until they have destroyed us.