Three things to know about what the Senate can do regarding Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Sarah Binder, senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, penned a piece in the Washington Post detailing the tools each party has in the Senate during the confirmation fight over Trump’s eventual nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Read the full piece here. Follow Sarah on Twitter here.


The minority has rights, but little power

If Democrats want to drag their feet on the nominee to buy time to marshal public opinion against the nominee, the panel’s rules give the minority party significant parliamentary rights to do so. One committee rule allows any member of the committee to delay a meeting of the committee by a week; another rule requires that a committee quorum to do business must include at least two senators from the minority party. Given the time crunch for considering a nomination, Democrats could theoretically exploit the rules to slow down the nominee’s path to a confirmation vote.

But there’s a hitch. …

A Senate majority rules

Once the Judiciary Committee issues its recommendation, the full Senate considers the nomination. The Republican Senate exploited the “nuclear option” in 2017 to require only a simple majority of the Senate — rather than the customary three-fifths — to cut off debate via cloture and to bring the Senate to a confirmation vote. By lowering the threshold for the number of votes required to stop debate, GOP-led Senates prevented filibusters of Trump’s first two court nominees over the objections of nearly every Democrat. …

Democrats will socialize the conflict

Instead, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Democrats appear more inclined to adopt the strategy named by political scientist E.E. Schattschneider decades ago: “Socialize the conflict” over the Supreme Court vacancy, raising the stakes of the upcoming elections to inspire more Democratic voters to actually cast ballots. After Ginsburg’s passing, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer urged his colleagues to emphasize to voters how much the Supreme Court fight meant for women’s reproductive rights, for the fate of the Affordable Care Act and pandemic health-care protections, and for legions of other policies favored by popular majorities and protected by Supreme Court precedents so far.

Read the full piece in the Washington Post.

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Topics: Legislative Procedure
Sarah Binder
Sarah Binder is senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University, w...