Senate Democrats are dispensing with talk of cooperation and preparing to fight President Trump across the board, delaying his nominees where possible and filibustering his Supreme Court pick if necessary.
Despite their minority status in the Senate, Democrats are under increasing pressure from their progressive base to stand up to a president they consider authoritarian and illegitimate. These activists demand that Democrats emulate Tea Party conservatives’ opposition to President Obama by doing everything in their power to obstruct President Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is facing especially intense scrutiny in his own backyard from liberals who believe any cooperation smacks of appeasement that will only “normalize” Trump.
“We are coming out on Tuesday with boxing gloves, barbells, and a demand that Schumer strengthen his resistance and fight fight fight the horrible policies coming out of the Trump administration,” read a post in the Facebook group What The Fuck, Chuck. “No appeasement, no dealmaking, no collaboration: we need powerful resistance and leadership of all the Senate Democrats to fight the administration!”
Thus Democrats boycotted a scheduled Tuesday vote on the Senate Finance Committee to advance the nominations of Trump’s designated secretary of the treasury, Steven Mnuchin, and health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
Both nominees are accused of providing misleading testimony and disclosures. Democrats have pressed Munchin on foreclosures by the bank he once managed and Price on his healthcare stock investments while serving on a committee overseeing the industry.
“This is about getting answers to questions, plain and simple,” the committee’s ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement. “Ethics laws are not optional, and nominees do not have a right to treat disclosure like a shell game.”
Senate Democrats also invoked a little-used rule to delay a Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of their colleague Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. While Sessions has the votes to prevail in the full Senate, opposition to his nomination has been energized by the backlash against Trump’s immigration executive order.
Sessions has had a strong influence on Trump’s immigration policy and the senator’s former aide Stephen Miller, now serving in the White House, reportedly had a hand in drafting the executive order along with top strategist Stephen Bannon.
Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night after she instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the controversial order. Democrats said Tuesday that the country needed an attorney general like Yates, not Sessions.
“That’s what an attorney general must be willing and able to do,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said of Yates’ refusal to follow Trump’s orders. “I have no confidence Sessions will be able to do that.”
Republicans were angry about the moves. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called the committee Democrats’ behavior “the most pathetic thing I’ve seen in my whole time in the U.S. Senate.” Hatch was originally elected in 1976.
The typically straitlaced Hatch also said, “I’m very disappointed in this type of crap.”
The Cabinet nominees are a sideshow leading up to the main event: resisting Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch’s confirmation as the successor to late Justice Antonin Scalia would preserve the conservative majority on the court.
While Senate Democrats cannot filibuster Trump’s executive branch nominees without Republican defections, they can use this procedure to block Gorsuch on their own by requiring a 60-vote threshold for his confirmation — or forcing GOP leaders to do away with this requirement using the “nuclear option.” Republicans currently control the Senate 52 to 48.
Democrats not only wish to deny Trump an opportunity to leave a conservative imprint on the Supreme Court. They view it as payback for Senate Republicans’ failure to confirm Obama’s final high court nominee Merrick Garland after Scalia’s death last year.
“The Democrats should treat Trump’s SCOTUS pick with the exact same courtesy the GOP showed Merrick Garland,” tweeted former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer. “Don’t flinch, don’t back down.”
“The most fundamental thing that must be understood about tonight’s announcement is that this is a stolen seat,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. in blistering statement.
“This is the first time in American history that one party has blockaded a nominee for almost a year in order to deliver a seat to a President of their own party.”
Merkley argued Trump should have nominated Garland instead. Because he did not, the senator concluded, “This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my popular to stand up against this assault on the Court.”
While the Supreme Court nomination fight was always likely to be contentious because of the high stakes on issues ranging from abortion and religious liberty to the death penalty and affirmative action, the all-out opposition to Trump wasn’t inevitable.
Trump isn’t an ideological movement conservative. He is more closely aligned with Rust Belt Democrats on trade and manufacturing than with his own party.
Congressional Democrats initially signaled they would be open to cooperating with Trump on an infrastructure plan that will at minimum contain billions in new government spending. The president is a New Yorker who once had a cordial relationship with Schumer, to whom he has donated money in the past.
But blue state Democrats are facing incredible pressure to oppose a president their constituents overwhelmingly voted against and who did not win the popular vote, none more so than Schumer. The Democratic leader has voted for every Trump nominee who has so far been confirmed by the Senate, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against on civil libertarian grounds.
Schumer has since announced he will vote no on eight of Trump’s Cabinet picks. New York progressives organized by What The Fuck Chuck demonstrated in Brooklyn Tuesday, saying “heartened but not mollified” by his newfound anti-Trump resolve.
Schumer voted to confirm Gorsuch for a federal judgeship in 2006, but greeted his Supreme Court nomination by promising “an exhaustive, robust and comprehensive debate” of the jurist’s fitness to serve. Schumer expressed “serious doubts” about Gorsuch’s ability to meet his standards.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., faced down liberal activists in Providence who were outraged by his vote to confirm Pompeo at CIA. “You are entitled to an explanation of why I have voted for some of the defense nominees and I will concede right off the bat that I may have been wrong,” he said.
Outside the auditorium, a protester shouted through a bullhorn about Pompeo, “This is a man who sees international politics and world history as a clash between Judeo-Christians and Muslims, who thinks Edward Snowden should be executed, who supported torture and who refused to say that he thinks, to use Trump’s term, that it is categorically wrong to ‘take out’ the families of accused terrorists.”
Even before Trump, Bernie Sanders’ Democratic primary campaign against Hillary Clinton was animated by the base’s desire for Democrats to fight more, rejecting the centrist politics of Clinton’s husband.
Up to seven Democratic senators have expressed varying degrees of support for an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch, the maximum number liberals can afford to have defect if there are going to mount a filibuster. But progressives might exert the same kind of pressure Republicans got from the Tea Party.
They are already receiving similar warnings. “Democrats are at risk of missing the point of what was an almost revolutionary election,” said Republican strategist Christian Ferry. “People looking at what goes on in Washington and saying, ‘Enough is enough.'”
Ferry managed Lindsey Graham’s presidential campaign and was deputy campaign manager for John McCain in 2008, neither of whom have been reflexive Trump supporters. But he warned Democrats against listening only to their base.
“They lost a presidential election they thought was a sure thing,” he said. “They need to grow their party.” Ferry also warned that opposing everything Trump does as radical and extreme could produce a “boy who cried wolf” effect.
But with thousands of demonstrators protesting Trump’s immigration initiatives and turning out for post-inaugural women’s marches, Democrats may have a hard time turning a blind eye to their base’s enthusiastic opposition.
Well, the Left may think they are using the Tea Party Playbook but they will fail miserably. The Tea Party was comprised of America loving patriots that were civil, orderly, polite, and their positions were rooted in the Constitution and the Rule of law. The Left is none of that. In fact, a polar opposite. The left was resoundly rejected by the electorate AGAIN. The democrats have lost over a thousand seats across this country since 2010 and will continue losing.
I hope they continue with their idiot and disgusting behavior as it adds more members to our side daily and serves to strengthen our resolve.
What we are witnessing from the Left are death cries.
McConnell will need to invoke the “nuclear option” in short order as he can force a vote with only a 51 majority. McConnell is said to be a traditionalist with Senate rules but it is clear that tradition and civility has been thrown out the window as Democrats have embraced their idiot base even closer and thus must be silenced. We need a functioning government. Time to shut the adolescents down and force confirmation then move onto other important matters.
The clock is ticking. We don’t have time to waste.