Senate

Flake Weathers Brutal Town Hall Meeting

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) “endured a brutal face-to-face confrontation with angry constituents Thursday as liberal voters dominated a standing-room-only audience at a town-hall meeting in downtown Mesa,” the Arizona Republic reports.

“Even before he took the stage, the audience chanted ‘health care for all,’ showing their support for former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the health-care-reform law that Flake has opposed. Flake was battered with questions about that issue as well as President Trump’s proposed border wall; his resolution to stop an Obama administration-era rule on internet privacy; his opposition to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood; and his support for eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to secure the confirmation of Trump’s pick, Neil Gorsuch.”

“But the conversation kept coming back to health care.”

Markey Vows to Restore Supreme Court Filibuster

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) “insists that once his party regains the Senate majority — whenever that may be — Democrats will restore the 60-vote threshold needed to advance Supreme Court nominees, which was demolished by Republicans last week,” Politico reports.

Said Markey: “We will ensure that for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in those people who are nominated. Rather than just someone who passes a litmus test.”

America’s Most and Least Popular

A new series of Morning Consult polls finds that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is America’s most popular senator, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held his spot as the least popular.

Among governors, New Jersey’s Chris Christie (R) is the least popular, while Republicans in traditionally blue states — Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland — are the most popular.

Democrats Have No Regrets Over Nuclear Option

“Democrats heard the argument throughout the Senate’s bitter debate over Neil Gorsuch: Don’t filibuster this Supreme Court nominee — save your leverage for President Trump’s next pick, the one who could change the court’s balance of power for a generation. But most Democrats decided that holding their fire this time would make no difference in the end,” Politico reports.

“Trump would choose the judges he wants, without regard to how Democrats might react, they concluded. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was intent on blowing up the filibuster for high court nominees, if not now, then next time in order to maintain the GOP’s grip on the court. His unprecedented blockade of Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, made that clear, they believed.”

“So if Democrats were going to lose the filibuster regardless, best to go down swinging now on a nominee many found far too conservative — a move that would also please a liberal base still spoiling for a fight against Trump.”

Inside the Doomed Effort to Save the Filibuster

“A week before Republicans gutted the filibuster to put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, nine senators gathered in John McCain’s office to see whether they could save the Senate from spiraling further into disrepair,” Politico reports.

“But clinching an agreement on how Democrats would advance Gorsuch while preserving the option of blocking a nominee for the next vacancy proved impossible. The fact that the parties clashed so severely over whether Gorsuch was even a mainstream jurist undermined any confidence that senators could hold to a pact covering President Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court pick.”

Said Sen. Chris Coones (D-DE): “They had a hard time trusting that we wouldn’t just filibuster the next nominee. We had a hard time trusting that they wouldn’t just break the rules on the next nominee.”

61 Senators Join Effort to Save Filibuster

“Sixty-one senators urged their party leaders to preserve the filibuster for legislation on Friday, backing the procedural tool after Republicans scrapped the minority’s power to block Supreme Court nominees,” Politico reports.

“But 37 senators declined to endorse the effort, including senior members of both parties as well as firebrands on the left and right.”

Senate Republicans Change Rules on Filibuster

“Senate Republicans changed longstanding rules on Thursday to clear the way for the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court, bypassing a precedent-breaking Democratic filibuster by allowing the nomination to go forward on a simple majority vote,” the New York Times reports.

“In deploying the so-called nuclear option, lawmakers are fundamentally altering the way the Senate operates — a sign of the body’s creeping rancor in recent years after decades of at least relative bipartisanship on Supreme Court matters. Both parties have likewise warned of sweeping effects on the future of the court, predicting that the shift will lead to the elevation of more ideologically extreme judges if only a majority is required for confirmation.”

Where Are the Gangs?

Rick Klein and Shushannah Walshe: “The Senate has been close to the brink before. But what makes this march toward the nuclear option different is that it’s eerily quiet in the provinces of bipartisanship. It’s not that efforts to save the Senate from itself are failing. It’s that they never even began. So it is that Senate rules and precedents take another step toward obliteration – not with excitement, on either side of the aisle, but with resignation.”

“The ‘nuclear’ metaphor may never have been apt. This was a slope more slippery than steep. And it’s hard to stop sliding when both sides are using both hands to point fingers.”

Parties Set to Collide Over the Filibuster

“The Senate barreled toward an institution-rattling confrontation on Thursday over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, with Democrats preparing to filibuster the selection and Republicans vowing to change longstanding rules to bypass the blockade,” the New York Times reports.

“Deploying the nuclear option would fundamentally alter the way the Senate operates — a sign of the body’s creeping rancor in recent years after decades of at least relative bipartisanship on Supreme Court matters. Both parties have likewise warned of sweeping effects on the future of the court, predicting that the shift will lead to the elevation of more ideologically extreme judges if only a majority is required for confirmation.”

McCain Says Support of ‘Nuclear Option’ Is Stupid

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is angry that the “nuclear option” will not be avoided in the fight over Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, the Washington Post reports.

“He thinks senators who view this as a good step are, well, not fully in command of their faculties.”

Said McCain: “Idiot, whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions. And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”

Republicans Consider Broader Change to Senate Rules

“Republicans are discussing making an additional change to the Senate’s rules to more quickly confirm President Trump’s nominees,” The Hill reports.

“The change is separate from an expected vote Thursday that would prevent Democrats from using a filibuster to block Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.”

“The additional change under consideration would affect hundreds of Trump nominations. The floated change would reduce debate time after a nominee clears an initial procedural hurdle from 30 hours to eight hours, greatly reducing the amount of time the Senate would need to confirm Trump nominees.”