Progressive Groups Pressure Senate Democrats to Block Trump Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

Posted March 29, 2017

MP3 Interview with Jim Dean, chairman of the group Democracy for America, conducted by Scott Harris


Since the death of the Supreme Court's most ardent conservative Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 last year, his seat has been vacant. That’s because Republicans who control the Senate blocked a hearing or vote on President Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland. The unprecedented decision by the GOP to deny Obama a nomination to an open seat on the high court has bred resentment among Democrats and poisoned the atmosphere surrounding President Trump’s recent nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Gorsuch’s record of appellate court rulings raised concerns that his elevation to the Supreme Court will restore a 5-4 conservative majority that will rule against workers and consumers, jeopardize women’s reproductive rights and threaten the separation between church and state.

Progressive groups across the country, alarmed at the consequences of Gorsuch being seated on the Supreme Court, are pressuring Senate Democrats to do everything possible to derail his confirmation.

While Democrats with 48 seats could wage a filibuster to deny Republicans the 60 votes needed to move the nomination to a final up or down majority vote, Republicans have threatened to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” that would change Senate rules to prevent all future filibusters against Supreme Court nominees. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America, who explains why his group supports a filibuster against Judge Gorsuch, risking the end of Senate high court filibusters. [Rush transcript.]

JIM DEAN: This is a stolen seat. Not allowing even a hearing for (President) Obama's nominee really dictates that something needs to be settled here in terms of how nominations are going to go. I mean, are we going to have a real process, as we should've had in the last year of the Obama presidency? Or are we going to play this kind of game? I think the Democrats really need to put their foot down and say, "We're not going to play this game – that we had a qualified nominee in Merrick Garland, a person I had a few disagreements, but qualified, nonetheless, and we really just can't allow that kind of opposition that Republicans put up to keep going, and be part of the political process. It's the kind of thing that has gotten so many people turned off about politics.

The second thing has to do with Gorsuch himself. In my opinion, I don't think he's qualified to be on the Supreme Court and the reason I say that is because the work that he has done so far indicates to me that he simply is not grounded in the reality of the lives that Americans have to live. I think if you look at the dissenting opinion that he gave in the famous "truck driver" case and certainly his really, his almost ignorance about the separation of church and state and the rights of women in the Hobby Lobby case. Those are rulings that really point to someone who is ideological, grounded in ideology much more than he is grounded in the rule of law and much more than in the real lives of Americans. The pick of this current occupant of the White House, who also said he was litmus testing Supreme Court nominees in favor of those who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and not withstanding Gorsuch's non-answers to the Senate panel, I think that's something that should give us all pause.

The good news is, I don't believe they're going to get through this without a filibuster. I think the Democrats have the votes to do that. I think that if happens, the Republicans will be faced with a very dire choice. One, to change the rules and get rid of the filibuster, which is going to have very long term and very important, big consequences. Or two, go back to the drawing board and start actually governing with Democrats like they used to, whether the Democrats are an opposition party or not.

I think it's time for a showdown on that. I think we've been going for that for a very, very long time, and no better time than the present to have that out.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Jim Dean,for those Democrats in the Senate who are concerned about the Republicans facing a Democratic party filibuster against nominee Neil Gorsuch and having the nuclear option get rid of the filibuster for future U.S. Supreme Court nominees. There's gotta be some concern that Donald Trump, if he's limited to even one term in office, that he could get a second pick for the Supreme Court, which would decidedly push the court even further to the right than it would be with a Republican replacement for Antonin Scalia. How do you respond to those who are concerned about maybe some deal needs to be cut to avoid the nuclear option?

JIM DEAN: The fact of the matter is, is we are long past the time when the minority party, the Democratic party runs and turns tail over something that the Republicans might do. Sure, they might invoke the nuclear option, but if they do, there will be costs. And in fact, it might be that Trump's a one-term president, but he may not have a Senate majority in two years. And if that happens, and we've had a nuclear option, there will be no rights in the opposition party – once the Republicans become in the minority - and it's gonna cut both ways. I think there are a lot of Republican senators who would not vote for the nuclear option for that reason, because they know that they're going to be an opposition party at some point and you can't be an effective opposition party without having the use of the filibuster in your tool kit. I think that's a vote that is not likely to just get rammed through. And I think a lot of Republicans in the Senate will certainly give pause before voting for something like this, knowing that they can get another nominee that could be more palatable to the Democrats and knowing that their own opposition rights in the future – maybe as soon as a year-and-a-half from now – are going to be obliterated if they vote something like that through.

For more information, visit Democracy for America at

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