Apparently Sen. Donnelly is going to vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seat left open when Justice Scalia died. There have been a lot of takes: Donnelly is a genius, Donnelly is going to get crushed, Democrats are taking the high road and will surely be rewarded. Anyway, here’s mine:
Judge Gorsuch seems perfectly competent but right wing. If George W. Bush had nominated him or if Justice Scalia’s seat had opened up during a Republican administration, there would be no controversy. But, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Senate Republicans are being rewarded for bad behavior. Their refusal to act on the nomination of Merrick Garland is the elephant in the room here, so to speak. That’s what puts Donnelly in a lose-lose position.
If he stands with a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, the Senate probably changes its rules and confirms him with 51 votes. The idea that Sen. Donnelly and the Democrats will successfully filibuster Gorsuch until Trump nominates someone more palatable seems unlikely. On the other hand, I think it’s pie-in-the-sky to think many people are going to reward Sen. Donnelly or the Senate Democrats for not being obstructionists. On the conservative side, those voters who would be likely to vote against Sen. Donnelly based on filibustering Gorsuch aren’t likely to vote for him based on his favorable Gorsuch vote. Meanwhile, liberals are angry because the Senate Republicans obstructed President Obama’s nomination and because the Trump administration is just horrible overall. Even if Sen. Donnelly’s vote is only conceding the inevitable, they will see it as a sign that Sen. Donnelly isn’t really on their side.
Ultimately, Sen. Donnelly is a Democratic Senator in a red state. He’s making a political calculation on what will hurt him less. I think it was a coin toss for him.