Even though national media attention has been primarily focused on Donald Trump over the past few months, it’s important to recognize when other Republican leaders are endangering American Democracy as well. Although Trump’s gaffes are generally loud and ridiculous and thus easy to focus on, other Republican officials have also been taking actions that are in direct contradiction to some of the country’s most sacred barriers against authoritarianism and partisan dictatorship.
Earlier this week, Mitch McConnell took exactly such an action, and challenged one of the most well-known cornerstones of the American system of government: the checks and balanced system between the three branches of government. Specifically, McConnell threatened to undermine one of the most efficient tools at the disposal of a legislative minority in Congress when he discussed the use of the “nuclear option” in the Senate in regards to Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.
Traditionally, a minority party in Congress has been able to fight back against the President in the Executive branch via the Senate’s confirmation process. Even though a confirmation requires only a simply majority of 51 votes, achieving cloture, or ending debate, requires a more significant 60 votes. While 10 votes might not seem like a lot, the difference is staggering, as Democrats currently control enough seats to block any attempts by McConnell to achieve cloture.
This means that Democrats could, in theory, prolong Gorsuch’s confirmation indefinitely. This is a practice with which Republicans are incredibly familiar, as they utilized the filibuster to block or delay a significant number of Barack Obama’s nominees and policy initiatives in the past. Even the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are now seeking to copy after their embarrassing Trumpcare failure, took months longer to pass than it should have due to Republican leveraging of the filibuster.
Apparently, however, McConnell doesn’t think that Democrats should be able to access the same tool, and is looking to do away with it in regards to Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. To do so would require invoking the “nuclear option”, which challenges the parliamentary constitutionality of the filibuster. This would change the vote threshold on cloture to 51 votes, and allow Republicans to force a vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation without swaying any of their Democrat counterparts.
This is incredibly hypocritical, as many Republicans blamed Democrats for Trumpcare’s failure in saying that Democrats refused to work with them. Now, Republicans are absolutely refusing to play ball. Instead of reaching across the aisle to convince Democrats of Gorsuch’s viability, he’d rather throw a tantrum and simply force it to a vote. This represents a complete and total abuse of power as Senate Majority Leader, and a blatant violation of one of the most protected aspects of the American government.
Even as Trump continues to try and distract people with his constant outbursts, Democrats must remain vigilant and opposed to Republican abuses of power in other branches of government. Please share this article with your family and friends, and make it clear to McConnell that this crosses a line, and that Democrats will continue to fight to preserve American Democracy.