With the support of three Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 — Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch won Senate confirmation, 54-45. It was a major victory for Trump, and validation for those conservatives who reluctantly voted for him in 2016 because in this instance at least, he advances the conservative agenda.
Using hyper-partisan tactics, Republicans refused to hold hearings for nearly a year on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because they feared he would tip the ideological balance on the court. Garland and Gorsuch were replacements for conservative Anthony Scalia, who died suddenly in 2015.
Republicans’ short-term judicial victory may backfire in the long run if they lose the Senate before the next high court vacancy occurs, having eliminated the potential of a filibuster on future judicial nominees.
Democrats may also regret their Quixotic use of the filibuster on Gorsuch, knowing full well they had no chance of blocking his nomination. It will be seen as a strategic mistake if Trump has an opportunity to nominate a second Supreme Court justice who Democrats see as egregiously unqualified but cannot block.
Gorsuch was clearly qualified — a prudent and thoughtful jurist — even if he is a conservative.