Washington – While angered that the GOP “went nuclear,” changing Senate rules to win confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Sen. Chris Murphy said he will still try to work with Republicans on common interests, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal warned of “repercussions.”
“It’s not going to change the way I operate,” Murphy said. “My job is to represent the people of Connecticut, not to play petty politics.”
He said he is sure “there are raw feelings” among Democrats about the GOP’s end run of a filibuster on Gorsuch. “But I’m not going to let my anger over the rules change my efforts to reach across the aisle to get things done for the state of Connecticut,” he said.
Still the Republican deployment of the “nuclear option” to get around a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch has aggravated the partisanship in the Senate, where collegiality and compromise was found more often than in the U.S. House.
“Wrecking the norms and rules of the Senate – the only way President Trump and Senate Republicans could achieve this misguided end – is a nuclear option that will have enduring fallout and rippling repercussions,” Blumenthal said.
On a speech on the Senate floor late Thursday, Blumenthal said he saw Republican senators giving each other “high-fives” after the rules change vote.
“That image stays with me as I stand here now,” he said. “It saddens me. There is no cause for celebration in what happened in the Senate just hours ago. No one should sleep well tonight. No one should underestimate the magnitude of what happened here. Damage was done to our democracy, to in fact two institutions that are pillars of our democracy: the United States Supreme Court and the Senate itself.”
The Senate GOP leadership on Thursday changed the chamber’s rules to allow Gorsuch’s nomination to be approved by a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed to end a Democratic filibuster.
Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman told Fox News the rules change “in the short term is going to make things worse” and increase partisan rancor in the Senate. Lieberman is a Democrat turned independent.
“What is really needed to cool the process down is cooler heads and sensible Republicans and Democrats to get something done for the country,” he said.
The use of the nuclear option to win Gorsuch’s confirmation also has led to concerns the GOP will take one step further to change the filibuster rules on legislation to push through important, but controversial bills.
And it’s not only Democrats who are concerned.
“The thing I worry most about is that we become like the House of Representatives,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “What’s the next step? Legislation? I’m convinced it’s a slippery slope.”
Yet McCain joined every other Senate Republican in voting for the rules change.
Democrats opened the door to the rules change in 2013, when they used their own nuclear option to end Republican filibusters on judicial nominees. But that rules change exempted candidates for the Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told NBC News Sunday that he would keep the legislative filibuster.
“I don’t think the legislative filibuster is in danger,” he said. “It’s a longstanding tradition of the Senate. The business of filibustering judges is quite new.”
Blumenthal and Murphy both spoke of their opposition to Gorsuch this week on the Senate floor.
“Judge Gorsuch has a disturbing record of putting the powerful ahead of the powerless,” Murphy said.
“He has consistently suggested that corporations and big donors have more rights under the Constitution than the individuals who work for them, and that the religious freedom and health care rights of wealthy corporations trump the religious freedom and health care rights of ordinary citizens. “
Murphy also said, “I will never forgive the Republican majority for the disrespect they showed to Merrick Garland,” President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court who was not given a hearing or a vote.
But Murphy said his opposition to Gorsuch, who sits on the Colorado-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, “is not payback.”
Blumenthal said his opposition to Gorsuch is rooted in his doubt he would be independent if he had to rule on anything relating to what the senator said is a scandal-plagued Trump administration.
Blumenthal also said Gorsuch refused to give his opinion on previous Supreme Court rulings during three days of questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee members. Blumenthal is a member of that panel.
“Unlike prior nominees, he absolutely refused to say when he agreed with core principles and precedents, well-accepted and long-accepted decisions of the United States Supreme Court that embody and enshrine principles the American people have accepted.” Blumenthal said.