Good afternoon. As a trial this week, I’ll be publishing a daily version of National Intelligence, where I get to share my perspective on what’s in the news and on my mind, day by day. These reports will go into Friday’s National Intelligence Bulletin. If you find that this daily version adds value to your subscription, please let me know.
Dems: McConnell will go nuclear on Trump’s court picks
Democrats are warning this week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will pursue the ‘nuclear option’ to speed through confirmation of Trump’s remaining federal court picks. So far, the Senate has confirmed 33 Circuit Court judges, who are appointed for life, and more can be pushed through on a simple majority vote, once McConnell changes the rule. The new Senate rules will mean that Trump will have appointed about 20 percent of all Circuit Court judges in what’s one of the most significant results of his presidency. Another pending rule change will reduce the amount of confirmation debate time from 30 hours to just two hours, allowing the Senate to confirm more judges in less time. The Senate also needs to fill 128 District Court vacancies, which they plan to do quickly under the new rules. “We intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can as long as we can do it,” McConnell said.
“They’re eroding democracy, they’re eroding bipartisanship and sooner or later, they’ll regret it,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who’s pushing for a compromise with the Republicans. Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) described McConnell’s actions as “dramatic and historic.” Sen. Diane Feinstein said, “They’re trying to find all kinds of ways to move things through as fast as they possibly can with the least scrutiny possible. One thing after another.” [source]
Analyst Comment: This is turning into a ‘guardrails’ issue for Senate Republicans. Democrats have complained that Trump was removing institutional guardrails and violating political norms. They’ve pointed to his executive orders and the most recent national emergency declaration as examples, and there’s some truth to that. For Senate Republicans, this is a matter of getting government business done, but Senate Republicans are also trapped especially since Democrats remain obstructionist in their positions on the Trump administration’s agenda. The concern is that Democrats using the examples of Merrick Garland, Trump’s executive orders, and this soon-to-be Senate nuclear option as precedents for pushing through their own agenda once they return to power. There will be talk of a ‘return to normalcy’ by future Democratic candidates, but if Republicans obstruct their agenda in any way, the tables are likely to turn in a hurry. This is why I’m overall pessimistic about just how ruthless Democrats will be once they get back into power. New laws and regulations we’ll see under a Democratic administration still represents my most likely ‘SHTF’ event.