Democrats Could Block A Trump Supreme Court Appointment

But they won’t. Here’s what they could do (boldface mine):

Let’s say Democrats want to shut down the center in order to force a vote on one of their own proposals — for example, a bill to prevent the federal government from separating parents and children as they seek asylum at our nation’s borders. They can do it anytime they want. Let me explain.

In order for the Senate to do anything, there must be a sufficient number of members present. Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution states:

a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Other than quitting for the day or calling for others to come to the chamber, the Senate can do nothing without a majority of its members — 51 senators — participating in a vote. No bill can pass, no amendment can be decided on, no nominations can get approved.

At present, it would be extremely difficult for Republicans to provide a quorum with their own numbers. Their majority stands at 51-49, with Sen. John McCain on extended leave in Arizona. If no Democrat participates, the Republicans cannot provide a quorum.* [it’s unclear if Vice President Pence could vote for a quorum]. In the month of June, there have been an average of 1.8 Republican absences across 18 roll call votes, so even if McCain returned to the Senate, the majority would struggle to consistently provide a floor majority.

This provides Senate Democrats with real leverage. If they refuse to participate in roll call votes, the Senate will come to a halt for lack of a quorum.

This tactic would put pressure on every Republican to be near the chamber whenever the Senate is in session and Democrats are able to force a vote on any procedural question. If Republicans are busy in the morning raising money and holding committee meetings, Democrats can force them into the Senate chamber and keep them there. The same is true during peak fundraising time in the early evening, or if the Senate is in session on Friday, or during the month of August. Meanwhile, vulnerable Senate Democrats will be doing their part by staying out of the Senate chamber and using their time more productively.

This would be a confrontational tactic; the Senate Democrats would probably only use it to make a fundamental point about the Senate’s role in American democracy.

Well, I think we’ve reached the fundamental point stage. Here’s the problem–and it’s not if this would be a good idea politically (because you don’t really know that, do you?). I don’t think the Democrats are capable of doing this. There is very little evidence over the last quarter century that professional Democrats, who are obsessed with being respectable, would do this. Most of them don’t know how to clearly lay out why Kavanaugh would be awful in simple, direct language: “He would do X which is awful. He would do Y which hurts American workers, etc.”. They just can’t do it (and those who can are usually marginalized within the party).

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Democratic leadership knows how to function like this.

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1 Response to Democrats Could Block A Trump Supreme Court Appointment

  1. kernel says:

    This was discussed over at Naked Capitalism recently, and there are a couple problems. One, GOP would probably be able to (legally) have Dems physically dragged into Senate. McConnell wouldn’t hesitate, and Fox News would present the Sergeant-at-Arms as a Hero, even as he frog-marches Tammy Duckworth into the Capitol.
    Two, the Dems would have to be strongly unanimous, and they’re not, which means any attempt to do this would be a fight among Democrats.

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