Of course there will be a Supreme Court filibuster

Republicans will obviously try to round up 41 votes to block things up -- and that's what a filibuster is


Jonathan Bernstein
April 12, 2010 6:13PM (UTC)

Apparently there's some sort of argument about whether Senate Republicans "will" filibuster the Supreme Court nominee. Thus Matthew DeLong begins his story in the Washington Post today like this:

Senate Republican leaders declined to rule out a filibuster of President Obama's nominee to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, if they think the pick falls outside the judicial mainstream. 

And Greg Sargent predicts that a filibuster is unlikely.

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I don't think this makes any sense. A better understanding of the situation, I think, is that of course the Republicans are filibustering, if by that one means that Obama will need 60 votes to get his nominee confirmed. It may be that, falling short of the 41 votes needed to block a candidate, the Republicans will choose not to force a cloture vote. It may even be that a small minority will insist on losing a cloture vote, and that in response some Republicans will vote yes on (assured) cloture and no on the (assured) nomination. But that's all just playing to the crowds and posturing.

The real story is that if there are more than 40 Senators opposed to the nomination, then those Senators will demand a cloture vote, defeat cloture, and defeat the nomination. That's true of this nomination, and it's true of every nomination that Barack Obama has sent up for the courts and for the executive branch since he was sworn in to office. 

What Lamar Alexander, Matthew DeLong and Greg Sargent are talking about is how Republicans will respond to an anticipated failure to reach 41 votes. That's not "will they filibuster?" -- that's if the filibuster fails, how will they stage-manage it.


Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein writes at a Plain Blog About Politics. Follow him at @jbplainblog

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