Senate Democrats and their liberal allies confronted the reality Monday that they have no path to blocking President Donald Trump’s pending Supreme Court nomination other than a political pressure campaign that peels away a minimum of four GOP votes.
Deep into their sixth year in the minority, Democrats can use some procedural tactics that might briefly slow the confirmation process, but if at least 50 Republicans approve of Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that nominee is certain to be seated.
Publicly, Democrats vowed to fight with every fiber in the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings and on the Senate floor as the liberal alliance of outside interest groups began planning how to mount a campaign that would try to turn Republicans against the nominee. But the process ahead leaves no room for error, and even a perfectly executed pressure campaign could fall short.
“We’re in a situation where Mitch McConnell is the only person in this building that can decide when and whether and how to move the nomination forward. My hope is that there will be enough Republicans to stop it, but I don’t think the likelihood of that is high,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made clear Monday that he will press ahead with the confirmation process 43 days before the election, shrugging off criticism that his actions were brazenly hypocritical. In 2016, McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee for a court vacancy eight months before the election, insisting that voters should have a say.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared to recognize the limited leverage. In a floor speech Monday, he did not threaten retaliatory tactics per se, should Republicans move a nominee through before the election. But he sought to shame his GOP colleagues by holding up their previous words about election-year Supreme Court nominations to suggest they were being insincere.