Progressive groups elated by the collapse of Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill already have their sights on the next major battle: the fight to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
They are hoping that the experience of drawing blood from Trump will inspire Senate Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared his intention Thursday to try to block the nominee. Still, progressive leaders hope to amplify his call to arms by building on Friday’s momentum.
“Trump is not as strong as he thinks he is, and if Democrats stick together and stand on principle, they can beat him,” said Joe Dinkin, national communications director of the Working Families Party, a labor union-backed Democratic faction. “That is even more obvious with Gorsuch than it should have been on TrumpCare. Democrats alone can block him.”
Neil Sroka, communications director for the online progressive heavyweight Democracy for America, sounded a similar note.
“A victory like this one should certainly remind Senate Democrats of the power that comes from sticking together, something that will be exceedingly important for the Gorsuch fight,” Sroka said.
Democracy for America’s fellow digital activism outfit the Progressive Campaign Change Committee has asked those on its 1-million-person email list to bombard senators with calls demanding that Gorsuch be blocked. The mobilization has inspired thousands of calls to Capitol Hill, according to Kait Sweeney, PCCC’s press secretary.
Sweeney too believes that the defeat of the American Health Care Act, as the Republican legislation was known, should strengthen Democrats’ determination to block Gorsuch.
“Friday’s repeal defeat showed how powerful Democrats can be if they are unified and fighting back against Trump and Republicans’ efforts to hurt working families. They have that same opportunity to do that with Gorsuch,” she said.
Democrats “should listen to what the grassroots are saying, and they’re saying: ‘Filibuster this stolen SCOTUS nomination,’” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, which advocates for Social Security and Medicare expansion. “Luckily, it seems like Schumer is listening, and I hope the others are as well.”
Filibustering Gorsuch carries risks for Democrats, of course. Mainly, the Republican Senate majority could vote to “go nuclear,” meaning it would abolish filibuster power altogether or, more narrowly, eliminate its use for Supreme Court nominees.
But rank-and-file progressives and the organizations that they represent are so terrified of handing the highest court over to another hard-line conservative ― and furious at Republicans’ refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland ― that they are willing to test Republicans’ resolve.
The Working Families Party, Democracy for America and PCCC were among the 24 national liberal organizations that sent a letter to Senate Democrats this week insisting that they block Gorsuch’s confirmation.
The letter was a response to reports Wednesday that some Democratic senators were considering a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to confirm Gorsuch in exchange for a promise to either preserve the minority’s power to filibuster future Supreme Court nominees or restore its authority to filibuster lower court nominees.
“Those advocating cutting this backroom deal have learned all the wrong lessons of the last election,” the progressive organizations wrote in the letter to Senate Democrats. “They would be turning their backs on the millions of people—among them your constituents—who have taken to the streets, flooded town halls, and overwhelmed congressional phone lines in the last few months.”
It is not clear how much traction the compromise agreement is getting, however, since members of the Senate Democratic leadership were not part of the discussions.
Schumer addressed the prospect of the filibuster being eliminated when he announced his intention to try to block Gorsuch.
“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee,” Schumer said Thursday.