Horowitz: Gorsuch Filibuster - A Really Stupid and Futile Gesture

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Rob Horowitz, GoLocalProv MINDSETTERâ„¢

In the movie Animal House when Dean Wormer was finally able to expel all the Deltas, Eric ‘Otter’ Stratton played by Tim Matheson exclaimed, “Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!”

That exactly describes the Democratic Senators bound to fail filibuster of Trump Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch last week.  As was a foregone conclusion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-KY) exercised the so-called nuclear option invalidating filibusters for Supreme Court nominees and Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54 to 45 vote.

While the Democrats gesture was “really futile and stupid,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who orchestrated the filibuster, is anything but. So what was this all about?

Democratic Senators will tell you that whether or not they filibustered this time, Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues would have just exercised the nuclear option for the next Trump nominee. This is probably the case.

But, in attempting to prevent an up and down vote for Gorsuch, who was unanimously deemed qualified by the American Bar Association and who performed nearly flawlessly when testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Democrats looked unreasonable and obstructionist.  Gorsuch is qualified, impressive, composed and no more conservative than Antonin Scalia, the Justice he is replacing. In other words, he will not change the current balance on the Court.

Justifiably outraged by the Republicans’ decision to not even give Merrick Garland, an equally qualified Judge nominated last year by President Obama even a Committee hearing, Schumer and company argued that "turnabout is fair play.” But most importantly, the activist Democratic base determined to oppose all things Trump and Republican, communicated loudly that anything short of an all-out effort to block Gorsuch was unacceptable and a threshold number of Democratic Senators cravenly went along.

This failed filibuster is mainly a result of partisan polarization. When both at the grassroots roots level and among party and elected officials, the other side is viewed as the ‘enemy’ rather than the opponent and is constantly demonized, reaching common ground through principled compromise—so essential  to solve our nation’s big challenges—remains elusive.

The bases of both parties too often reward elected officials who engage in partisan warfare, rather than devote time to constructive governance.

The result is the dysfunction we see in Washington.

It is time for elected leaders in both parties to stop this race to the bottom and put country first.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

  • Jennifer Duffy

    Cook Report

    "We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

  • Pam Gencarella

    Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

    "Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

    Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

  • Kay Israel

    Professor at Rhode Island College

    "With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

    The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

    For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

  • Jennifer Lawless

    Professor at American University

    "The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

    His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

  • Len Lardaro

    Professor at University of Rhode Island

    "Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

    I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

    A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

    That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
    The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

    Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."

  • Mike Stenhouse

    RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

    "As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

    Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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