Feb 13, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Trumpworld wants Chuck Schumer nuked quickly

A growing view at the highest levels of the Trump Administration: Mitch McConnell should use the nuclear option at his first opportunity in the process to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

A source close to Gorsuch's confirmation, reflecting the view of at least half a dozen others involved in the process, told us it would be terrible if McConnell allowed the Democrats even one failed cloture vote.

The thinking inside Trumpworld: They suspect that nothing they do or say will appease Schumer, so they might as well nuke the Democrats at the first sign of opposition. The President shares that view. He's made clear, publicly, that he'd be more than happy for McConnell to use the nuclear option.

The way Republicans see it, the Democratic leader is trying to set a new 60 vote standard to pass all Supreme Court nominees. If Schumer offers McConnell a deal that he'll release his red state Senators to vote for cloture after one round of successful opposition, according to our source, the Republican leader should respond: "Chuck, pound the sand."

The source added: "I'd be surprised if there's anybody in the White House who wouldn't be happy to see nuke option invoked."

The race to 60: The Trump Administration hasn't given up on getting 60 votes for Gorsuch, deploying its one of its key assets, Trump, for schmooze sessions with red state Dems on the Hill. The Trump team also needs to show they're trying to get 60 votes, because if they signal now that they're trigger-happy on the nuke they'll alienate the Senate's old bulls who, in the past, have been reluctant to see the institution eroded.

Why this matters: Conservatives view the next two Supreme Court confirmation battles as "for all the marbles": They fundamentally change balance of the court. McConnell shares that view and pulled off one of the great tactical victories by denying President Obama his final justice. Republicans leading this fight understand that the most important thing they can do for next two rounds is to make sure the nuclear option is a broadly-accepted part of their arsenal.

Where this is heading: The conservative base believes any judge who could win 60 votes in the current Senate is probably not a judge they could trust. Going nuclear now gives Trump a stronger hand next time, when the ideological stakes will be far higher. Democrats will (rightly) claim that the next justice could lead to the reversal of the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. At that point, Republicans will need their nuke.

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