Playbook: “Earlier this week, President Donald Trump mocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for crying about the plight of immigrants, saying he was faking, and wondering aloud from the White House who his acting coach was. Yesterday, he followed that up by calling him ‘Fake Tears Chuck Schumer’ to his 23 million Twitter followers. Now he’s asking Schumer to expedite the consideration and support Neil Gorsuch, his nominee for the Supreme Court. Do you think that’s how this works, Mr. President?”
Rick Hasen: “My prediction is that they will not. Democrats seem to have a harder time with obstructionism than Republicans, and when you have prominent Democratic lawyers like Neal Katyal voicing support for Gorsuch, enough Democrats won’t have the stomach to filibuster, especially knowing it will end with Gorsuch on the Court anyway. Further, some Democrats may be hoping that by not filibustering they can keep channels open with those Senate Republicans who are willing to deal on other issues, whether or not this is actually true. If Senate Democrats are going to grow a spine, it probably won’t be this fight.”
Jonathan Chait: “Democrats are reportedly tempted to abandon the filibuster, so that it remains in place for a future Court fight… But this is fantastical. There is no ‘leverage’ gained by a weapon one’s opponent can disarm at will. The Supreme Court filibuster is like a pair of handcuffs in which the handcuffed person is holding a key.”
Jason Sattler: “This is an appointment by the biggest popular vote loser of the modern era to fill a stolen seat. Pretending this is just Senate business as usual would pat the GOP on the head for pulling off the heist of the century, and it would give Trump a thumbs up for his first-week ‘shock and awe’ campaign of executive orders designed to roll back immigration, the Affordable Care Act and voting fraud.”
“It would also show that the elected left has learned nothing in the last eight years.”
“Barack Obama was the first candidate since Dwight D. Eisenhower to win 51% of the popular vote twice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s cynical decision to deny Obama the right to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat was mustache-twirlingly brilliant.”
Kevin Drum: “Lots of Democrats want to take a scorched-earth approach toward the confirmation of Gorsuch … I’m totally on board with this. The Republican blockade of Garland was flat-out theft, and no party with any self-respect can let that go without a fight.”
Washington Post: “Reporters were kept out, and only a few select staffers, family members and outsiders were allowed to participate in the private GOP policy retreat. But at least one unauthorized person made it inside, and while it is unclear to what degree the country’s top leaders were in physical danger, their circle of trust was undoubtedly breached.”
“A person secretly recorded closed sessions on national security and health care that were attended by many dozens of GOP lawmakers. They had gathered for a private discussion of some of the thorniest legislative issues of the moment, as well as a question-and-answer session with Pence.”
“In a surprise turn of events, Senate Democrats announced Tuesday morning that they are boycotting a committee vote on two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, drawing fury from Republicans across the aisle,” CNN reports.
“The Senate Finance Committee was set to vote on the nominations of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. But minutes after the vote was scheduled to take place, Democrats on the panel convened an impromptu news conference to announce that they refused to participate in the proceeding, all as their Republican colleagues were waiting in a hearing room down the hallway.”
FiveThirtyEight is now tracking how much each senator and representative in Congress supports President Trump’s agenda and compares it to expectations.
President Trump said he will announce his nominee for the Supreme Court at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday from the White House.
Playbook: “Sometimes it makes sense to go through Congress. Yes, it’s slow, messy and cumbersome. But you’ll end up with something safer — and you’ll share the political risk. The question now: Will Republicans on Capitol Hill pass something to help clean up the mess Trump created? Or will they force him to own it? Absent congressional action, will Trump tweak the order? Or is that admitting defeat — something Trump doesn’t like to do. One thing is for certain: Every time Congress has to spend hours and political capital on something like this, it makes tax reform, replacing Obamacare and an infrastructure package that much harder.”
“While Trump is certainly a singular figure, we’ve seen people like him before in Washington. Rich business owners get elected or appointed to positions of power all the time and, in their quest to shake things up in a confining political environment, screw things up instead. Running a private company, where you’re accountable to only yourself, is different than running a country, where you’re accountable to 324 million people and 535 lawmakers, who won election just like the president.”
Politico: “With Trump planning to announce his nominee on Thursday, but now considering an earlier rollout, his allies are moving quickly to sharpen a battle plan, and the first formal meeting of the de facto war room for the coming confirmation fight took place on Friday at the Capitol Hill headquarters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Friday.”
“Inside the room were officials from the White House, Senate GOP leadership and the outside groups that have spent months researching the records of Trump’s potential picks and are now prepared to unload at least $10 million in ads backing the nominee—much of it directed at Senate Democrats up for election in 2018 in states Trump carried.”
Rick Hasen: “This week (even with the potential for a Supreme Court nomination as soon as Monday), Senate Democrats will face a pivotal choice: will they work their remaining levers of power to protest President Trump’s policies and power? Even without a filibuster for nominations, Senate Democrats can withhold unanimous consent, demand 30 hours of debate per nomination, etc.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) told CBS Denver that his office “is getting so many calls and emails, his has staff assigned to do nothing except respond to them. In one night, his office received 3,000 voicemails.”
Said Gardner: “It’s just been a fire hose.”
However, the senator said “many of them were from what Gardner calls paid protesters from other parts of the U.S.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “all but ruled out the possibility of a change to the filibuster rule this year,” The Hill reports.
McConnell made his comment “one day after President Trump said he wants Senate Republicans to strip Democrats of the power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees if they attempt to block his pick.”
Said McConnell: “Senate rules are a matter for the Senate and a lot of other people have opinions. We’ve already adopted the rules for this Congress at the beginning of the year. Basically we didn’t adopt any because in the Senate rules are permanent, unlike the House which every two year adopts a new set of rules. We don’t.”
Playbook: “The Arizona Republican has been relishing his role as Trump’s tormentor. Over the past several days, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman has publicly broken with Trump over his voter fraud claims and reports that Trump was considering reinstating torture and panned his OMB pick over military spending and votes to shut down the government. And while some of his colleagues are giving Trump latitude on building a wall on the Mexico border, McCain said Thursday he won’t support it without seeing more details and continues to have concerns with Trump’s relationship with Putin.”
“Not a lot of Republicans are willing to go toe to toe with Trump for fear they’ll end up battered and bullied by the president and his loyal army of followers. But the 80-year-old former Republican presidential nominee just got re-elected. He clearly doesn’t like Trump or his policies and isn’t afraid to tell everyone about it.”
President Trump has narrowed his first Supreme Court nomination down to three finalists with Tenth Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch and Third Circuit judge Thomas Hardiman emerging as the frontrunners while Eleventh Circuit Judge Bill Pryor remains in the running but fading, Politico reports.
Trump will meet today with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to discuss his coming Supreme Court choice.
“Top Senate Republicans are drawing a hard line on the Supreme Court, guaranteeing that no matter what tactics Democrats deploy, they will be forced to swallow Donald Trump’s imminent nominee to the high court,” Politico reports.
“Republicans won’t come out and say it, but there’s an implicit threat in their confidence: If Democrats play things the wrong way, they might find themselves on the wrong end of a legacy-defining change to Senate rules that scraps the chamber’s 60-vote threshold to confirm Supreme Court nominees.”
Playbook: “Mitch McConnell swapped seats with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the chairman of the inaugural committee, so he could sit next to Donald Trump. McConnell and Trump spoke for a long period of time — and if you know McConnell, he doesn’t talk to anyone for that long unless he has something to say. The senator was doing a lot of the talking, and he’s not much for small talk. This was a one-on-one chat, with even Mike Pence laying back. McConnell and Trump were both talking with their hands, with McConnell at one point making a ‘T’ with his two hands, appearing to illustrate a collision.”
“McConnell is the ultimate Capitol operator. He’ll be able to tell Trump what is — and, more importantly, what isn’t — possible. Plus, he doesn’t have the scar tissue with Trump that Ryan has.”
“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.”
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?