The problems with the ‘nuclear option’
On May 6, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice. The position has been open for just over a year because the Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s right to appoint a new justice after the death of Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia was a constitutional conservative, and Republicans did not want Obama to take this opportunity to appoint a more liberal justice to the court, giving liberals a majority on the court.
After the recent election, with the Republicans in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House, a conservative court nomination seemed inevitable. The Democrats still had enough people in the Senate to block the nomination through a filibuster, but it soon became clear that the seat needed to be filled because the Supreme Court would not be able to function without a full bench.
In order to avoid this, the Republicans engaged their “nuclear option.” According to the New York Times, “After Democrats held together Thursday morning and filibustered President Trump’s nominee, Republicans voted to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority.”
This new change creates a dangerous dynamic between Republicans and Democrats, as it changes the rules on how the Senate votes and could open the door for politicians to make further changes.
While Gorsuch is a qualified candidate, the problem surrounding his confirmation was created long before he was even nominated.
The Republicans vowed to block Obama’s nomination no matter who it was, creating an increased atmosphere of political polarization. The Democrats and the Republicans have been escalating their rivalry, which culminated in the election of Donald Trump.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “When history weighs what happened, the responsibility for changing the rules will fall on the Republicans’ and [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s shoulders.” It is easy to see why Democrats feel that they were cheated out of the chance to nominate a justice and had a new justice forced upon them.
This escalation of conflict between the two parties is a problem. The solid division between the two parties can only hurt the rest of the nation. The two parties have only become more wrapped up in their rivalry, and have become less focused on helping the people who elected them. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) said about Rep. David Nunes (R-Calif.), “You have to keep in mind who he works for. He works for the president and answers to the president.” This implied that Republicans’ only job is to please the president and not help the people.
This is completely unacceptable. The job of Congress is to help constituents and pass laws that represent the views of their district. It is now clear that they are only working for their party.
Unfortunately, this is not going to be fixed until the parties break down, create a better dynamic and start to work together.