The US Senate has a simple norm at the moment.
51 is all that matters.
Anything else is merely a tactic to get to 51.
Let’s just recognize that.
Let us also recognize that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has two lifelong goals:
- Confirm reactionary judges
- Remain Senate Majority Leader
He has a tremendous number of tools to achieve those goals, most notably absolute shamelessness. Charges of hypocrisy leveled against him are useless as they are inoperative in the current power dynamic.
However, he needs to get 50 out of 53 Republican Senators on board for whatever he wants to do. He can count on the Vice President to break a tie. He can afford no more than three defections. He currently has more than three incumbents who are tied or behind their 2020 races:
- Susan Collins R-ME behind
- Martha McSally R-AZ behind
- Corey Gardiner R-CO behind
- Thom Tillis R-NC behind
- Jodi Ernst R-IA tied or behind
- Lindsay Graham R-SC tied or slightly ahead
- Steve Daines R-MT tied or slightly ahead
- David Perdue R-GA tied or slightly ahead
- Georgia Special WTF Knows
These senators, and perhaps Senators Murkowsi and Romney who have no reason to kowtow to Trump, are the pressure and pain points. Several of them are currently looking at the $50,000 or more per minute pace Act Blue is raising and hoping that the firehose of liberal money is not aimed at them. Any nominee that is confirmed will require several of these Senators to likely walk the plank and trade their re-election chances for a 6-3 GOP appointed Supreme Court.
We need to inflict massive political pain for an act that will produce minimum Republican gains. This has to be done in a two step. The first is any Republican Senator who is not on the list should not be targeted for the next week or more. I would love to see McConnell or Coryn lose re-election, but that is extremely unlikely to actually happen so another million or five to those Senate races is a non-strategic use of resources. Senators in marginal Republican seats need to know in their bones that if they vote to confirm a reactionary, they are trading their Senate seat for a short term and transient advantage on the Supreme Court.
The second is we need to pressure Democratic Senators to make a very clear and credible commitment. If there is a reactionary Republican confirmed with 51 votes in 2020, the Senate in 2021, contingent on a Democratic Trifecta, will soon be both a 53 vote body and will be confirming at least four new, young, liberal justices. Four is the appropriate number. Two justices would be used to restore the status quo ante of pre-Garland. Two more would be a meaningful cost on norm violation.
Yes, there are two outcomes to this action. The first is that by 2031, the Supreme Court will be a 999 seat body. The other is an escalation off-ramp of a constitutional amendment to have fixed SCOTUS terms with scheduled replacement tied with strong agreement enforcement mechanisms to discourage/disallow blockades.
Those are the options that have a hint of possibility of intermediate run success. The short run is going to suck even more. But let’s be smart and not piss $10 million dollars in rage money in Kentucky so that we can have a chance of achieving goals.