It took just 65 days for Judge Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed as the 113th justice to serve for the United States Supreme Court, though his confirmation process was fraught with political posturing, particularly by the Democrats.
The leader of the campaign against Gorsuch was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Much has been written about his motivation behind blocking Gorsuch, but the obvious reason for his resistance was simple pettiness.
Republicans would not even consider former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland because the presidential election was fast approaching (which there is precedent for, set by Democrats as explained below), so the Democrats responded by spitefully (and unsuccessfully) trying to keep Gorsuch off of the highest court in the country.
The precedent, now known as the “Biden Rule,” was set by former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden, who said in 1991, regarding the possibility of President George H.W. Bush nominating a Supreme Court Justice during an election year:
"President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not name a nominee until after the November election is completed....some will criticize such a decision and say that it has nothing more than an attempt to save a seat on the court in hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it, but that would not be our intention.
“It would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”
Democrats also accused Gorsuch of avoiding questions, even though Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, a liberal icon, began that practice during her confirmation hearings. It’s now known as the Ginsburg Rule:
When Sen. Joseph Biden chaired confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, he established certain rules for questioning nominees — rules that some of his fellow Democrats seem to have conveniently forgotten...
Some Republican senators wanted to know whether she still held such extreme views. On question after question, though, she refused to answer: The Biden rules stipulated that she had no obligation to answer questions about her personal views or on issues that might come before the Court. Despite her silence, the Senate confirmed Ginsburg, 93-3.
The simple fact is that Democrats can not handle precedents they set backfiring against them. The ultimate example, though, was the use of the “nuclear option” to lower the amount of votes needed to confirm Gorsuch from 60 to 51 (Gorsuch received 54 votes).
Though this is the first time the “nuclear option” has been used to confirm a Supreme Court Justice, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) pulled the trigger in 2013 and eliminated filibusters on all federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments so they could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Both Democrats and Republicans will probably be harmed by this at some point in the future. The fact remains however, that the “nuclear option” would not have to be used if Democrats were not posturing for political points and acting simply to spite Republicans, while conveniently forgetting (and regretting) the precedents they set in the past.