Democrats Gear Up for Epic Fight Over Supreme Court

“Senate Democrats are gearing up for a potentially ugly fight over Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick, with some liberal activists urging them to do everything possible to block any nominee from the Republican president-elect,” Reuters reports.

“Democrats are still seething over the Republican-led Senate’s decision last year to refuse to consider outgoing President Barack Obama’s nomination of appeals court judge Merrick Garland for a lifetime post on the court. The action had little precedent in U.S. history and prompted some Democrats to accuse Republicans of stealing a Supreme Court seat.”

Will Rubio Back Down on Tillerson?

Politico: “The Florida senator produced quite a fireworks show this week with his grilling of a seemingly rattled Tillerson at his confirmation hearing for secretary of state. But opposing Tillerson on the Senate floor — and antagonizing Trump, whom Rubio was dismissing as a “con man” around this time a year ago, before eventually endorsing him — is another thing entirely.”

“Intentionally or not, Rubio is out on a limb after demanding denunciations of Russia and other authoritarian countries that Tillerson refused to offer. GOP leaders believe the former ExxonMobil CEO remains a solid bet for confirmation with or without Rubio’s support, but the Florida senator is being watched especially closely because he’s seen as a proxy for other GOP hawks.”

For members: Did Rex Tillerson Lie Under Oath?

Confirmation Hearing for Jeff Sessions

The U.S. Senate is considering the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be Attorney General.

Politico: “As the Senate Judiciary Committee kicks off a two-day marathon hearing on Sessions Tuesday, the goal isn’t just to get him confirmed. Trump’s team wants him to emerge unscathed, with a clear runway to enact his policy agenda at DOJ despite his controversial history on voting rights and decades-old allegations of racism.”

C-SPAN has live coverage.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“Apparently there’s yet a new standard now to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate.”

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-KY), quoted by The Hill, on suggestions that Democrats would block any Supreme Court nominee made by Donald Trump.

How the GOP Plans to Crush Democratic Opposition

Politico: “Senate Republicans have a plan to break the Democratic resistance to Donald Trump’s Cabinet: Make their delay tactics as excruciating as possible. With Senate Democrats threatening to drag out the confirmation process for weeks, the GOP is preparing to keep the chamber running around the clock if that’s what it takes to speedily confirm Trump’s cabinet. It’s the kind of retaliatory strategy that will bring all-night sessions, 3 a.m. votes and a long slog through the first months of Trump’s presidency that could sap some of the GOP’s legislative momentum. Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said the GOP will do ‘whatever it takes’ to get Trump his team as quickly as possible.”

Schumer Vows to Keep Supreme Court Vacancy Open

Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) risky gambit to halt the confirmation process for Merrick Garland may have paid off, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned that Republicans will face payback for their year-long blockade of President Obama’s nominee in due time, Politico reports.

Said Schumer: “The consequences are gonna be down the road. We are not going to settle on a Supreme Court nominee. If they don’t appoint someone who’s really good, we’re gonna oppose him tooth and nail.”

When asked whether he would do his best to keep the vacancy open, Schumer responded without hesitation: “Absolutely.”

Jeffrey Toobin: How to stop a Trump Supreme Court nominee

Schumer Regrets Democrats Triggered ‘Nuclear Option’

Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN that the Democrats’ “move to diminish the number of senators needed to confirm Cabinet picks from 60 votes to 51, because the new rule now hurts his party.”

Said Schumer: “I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship. I won on Supreme Court, lost on Cabinet. But it’s what we have to live with now.”

Schumer Leadership Promises Sharp Break from Reid

Politico: “The most glaring display of the shift so far is the sprawling leadership team Schumer has appointed and promised to consult before making key decisions — in contrast to Reid’s smaller, close-knit group of lieutenants and knack for taking hard lines on his own.”

“The core group of 10 senators includes Manchin and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) at one end of the political spectrum, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at the other, making the leadership table a potential hotbed of ideological tension. The 10 lawmakers will be involved in all crucial party meetings, senators said. Reid often limited such gatherings to his top four and occasionally would act unilaterally.”

“Schumer configured a unique structure for his top deputy to head off a clash between Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who had refused to rule out challenging Durbin for the No. 2 post. The press-adept Durbin will count votes and serve as a rapid responder to Republicans on controversies of the day, while Murray will be more of a backroom operator and party strategist, paying special attention to Democrats up for reelection after shepherding them into office as DSCC chairman in 2012.”

New Congress Poised to Unravel Obama Policies

“The most powerful and ambitious Republican-led Congress in 20 years will convene Tuesday, with plans to leave its mark on virtually every facet of American life — refashioning the country’s social safety net, wiping out scores of labor and environmental regulations and unraveling some of the most significant policy prescriptions put forward by the Obama administration,” the New York Times reports.

“Even before President-elect Donald J. Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, giving their party full control of the government, Republicans plan quick action on several of their top priorities — most notably a measure to clear a path for the Affordable Care Act’s repeal. Perhaps the first thing that will happen in the new Congress is the push for deregulation. Also up early: filling a long-vacant Supreme Court seat, which is sure to set off a pitched showdown, and starting confirmation hearings for Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees.”

More from the Washington Post: GOP Congress maps sweeping plans for conservative agenda.

Playbook: “Does the Senate cool the House down, by ignoring some of its more aggressive legislation? How much bloodletting will there be over replacing Obamacare? How much does Trump’s infrastructure package shrink, and how long will it take to come to fruition? Will all of Trump’s Cabinet nominees survive? Where do conservatives in the House pick their battles, and can they keep their outsized relevance?”