In conversation with a Washington Post reporter, Senator Orrin Hatch argued Democrats should have let Republicans confirm Neil Gorsuch without complaining, then immediately refuted his own argument.
But some people, like Eric Segall of the Daily Beast and law professor Noah Feldman, argued it was politically stupid for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch. It would have been smarter, the argument goes, to let Republicans have this one, so that the filibuster would have been intact if a liberal justice retires and Trump picks someone worse.
Many Republicans have echoed this line. But following the vote to invoke the nuclear option on Thursday, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) accidentally let slip a simple fact that refutes this argument while speaking to Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel:
Hatch: Dems blew chance to use the filibuster if a liberal justice retires. I asked if he’d haven broken such a filibuster.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) April 6, 2017
Immediately after Hatch claimed Democrats would have been smarter to wait and filibuster the next Supreme Court nominee, he said he would have voted to eliminate the filibuster anyway.
Hatch’s comment reveals exactly why there was no point for Democrats to remain cautious — it would not have made any difference. If Trump did get another Supreme Court vacancy to fill, Republicans would have been just as willing to use the nuclear option on that one too.
This sort of shameless gamesmanship is not new for Hatch. After Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, Hatch stated in an interview, “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”
But just two weeks later, when Obama did actually nominate Garland, Hatch opposed the nomination and refused to even give him a hearing.
Double-talk like this proves Democrats made the right choice by filibustering Gorsuch. Republicans do not negotiate in good faith — they stab their opponents in the back for acting like adults. It was far better for Democrats to take a stand and show people they refuse to take part in the dismantling of our democratic norms.