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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What I'm Following This Week

I'm pretty much getting started with my week today after a few days of travel.

Aside from Russia, I was tracking two big issues last week, and both came to a close or halt by the end of the day Friday.

The first, of course, was the Republicans' attempt to repeal Obamacare, and we all know how that ended.

The second was the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Neal Gorsuch. A week ago, it seemed that he was a shoo-in for confirmation, likely through the Senate Republicans eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court Justices. But after a week of being stonewalled and also beginning to remember what it's like to win, the Dems not only appear to have pulled together enough votes to filibuster, they've also managed to delay the vote by a week, which buys time to try to convince the three Republicans they'd need to vote against invoking the "nuclear option" (getting rid of the Supreme Court filibuster for good), when the filibuster has served conservatives well for so long, particularly under Obama. "Going nuclear" wouldn't remove the filibuster for everything, but at Republicans have to realize that they may find themselves in the minority again sooner than they'd expected. Now, most probably see that and think they have to take advantage now, getting a 49 year old ultraconservative judge on the court for the next 30-40 years, but perhaps three or four might think of it as giving Democratic Presidents an easy path to confirming liberal judges for years to come? Booman posted a good summary this weekend about a way the Democrats might be able to force a compromise with Republicans on this:

In other words, they can’t hold their caucus together for four years on a plan to leave a seat indefinitely vacant on the Supreme Court. They’re going to have to concede Trump’s right and his obligation to fill the seat. But they do have the leverage to insist that they are consulted on who that judge will be and that the judge is widely acceptable within their caucus. The Democrats’ strategy should be aimed at protecting the American people and particularly their base of supporters, and they have to use all the power they have to do it. That means they filibuster Gorsuch and they stand united. But it also means that they go to Trump and say that they’re not going to leave the seat vacant until 2019 provided that they all come to an agreement on a more acceptable candidate for the position.
The Republicans will keep saying that if Gorsuch is not acceptable then no one will be acceptable, and that this justifies changing the rules. The Democrats have to cut that avenue of argument off at the pass, and if they’re sincere about it they may be able to convince three Republican senators not to blow up the filibuster rule.

It remains to be seen just how many Republicans will actually make a deal with Democrats at this point. Just like with the AHCA, it might be better to try to encourage the Republicans to form a circular firing squad and see if infighting can keep the filibuster in place. If not, what Booman is proposing is probably the best we can do, but I literally cannot visualize a civil exchange between Donald Trump and Democratic leadership at this point with Trump continuing to flail in anger, like this Pizzagate-adjacent gem this morning:

Can Trump and the Republicans really deal with the Democrats while they're working their butts off to spin away the Russian collusion allegations?

MSNBC's Kasie Hunt catches us up on that story:

Nunes is puffing his shirt today,

"I’m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit, because they know that I’m quite effective at getting to the bottom of things," Nunes told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly when asked about calls for his recusal. 
but I think that indicates him feeling like the walls are closing in, between the false bravado and the fact that his body language really doesn't match his bluster.

Just a feeling. Anyway, with healthcare off the table, the three things to keep an eye on this week are:
  • Russia (with a bullet!)
  • Republican infighting
  • Republican wavering on the nuclear option

Something big will drop on at least one of those fronts this week.

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