Quick Takes: The Stage Is Set For a Nuclear Showdown on Gorsuch

* McConnell seems to want a nuclear showdown. Democrats have the votes to give it to him.

As President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, was set to clear a Senate Judiciary Committee vote Monday advancing his confirmation, Democrats secured the votes to to filibuster the judge on the Senate floor later this week, at which point it is believed that Republicans will trigger the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees.

* Sen. Lindsay Graham seems to have an extremely short memory.

“It certainly is the end of bipartisanship on judges,” if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch, Graham told reporters, in an exchange broadcast by MSNBC. “We’ll have a partisan vote on every federal judge, at least at the circuit and Supreme Court level. Reaching across the aisle will be a thing of the past…

Asked if McConnell would invoke the nuclear option if faced with a a filibuster, Graham responded, “Oh yeah, we have no other choice.”

“We’re not going to have a rule, a tradition in the Senate where they get their judges and President Trump can’t get his,” he said.

Just how far across the aisle was Graham willing to reach when Obama nominated Merrick Garland for this opening on the Supreme Court? That was the move that killed the idea of bipartisanship on judges.

* The Washington Post is reporting some hot news about yet another connection between Trump and Russia.

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would likely require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

* Add another item to the extremely long list of troubling developments from the Trump administration.

Even as the U.S. military takes on a greater role in the warfare in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has stopped disclosing significant information about the size and nature of the U.S. commitment, including the number of U.S. troops deployed in either country.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon quietly dispatched 400 Marines to northern Syria to operate artillery in support of Syrian militias that are cooperating in the fight against Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. That was the first use of U.S. Marines in that country since its long civil war began.

In Iraq, nearly 300 Army paratroopers were deployed recently to help the Iraqi military in their six-month assault on the city of Mosul, according to U.S. officials.

Neither of those deployments was announced once they had been made, a departure from the practice of the Obama administration, which announced nearly all conventional force deployments.

* Amy Walter writes, “How to Lose a Majority.”

…if you look back at the last four midterm elections where the party in the White House lost control of one or both houses of Congress, you see that they share the following traits in common: the president has approval ratings among his own partisans under 85 percent and approval ratings among independents in the 30’s or low 40s…

We are less than 75 days into the Trump Administration and the president is flirting very close to the danger zone territory. The most recent Gallup survey put his approval ratings with Republicans at 85 percent, but he’s sitting at just 33 percent with independents. If he drops a few points among GOPers, Trump’s ratings today would look exactly like those of President Bush right before his party was routed in 2006…

We’ve got a long way to go before the 2018 midterms. But, the current situation of Republican-infighting, a lack of legislative accomplishments and a President determined to keep stoking political divisions is a very dangerous path for the GOP…In fact, Trump’s numbers now look more like those of a president who is about to be hit by a wave election that wipes his party out of power in the House, than one who is going to be able to ride a wave of success.

* You can read an excerpt of Susan Bordo’s book, “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton” at the Guardian.

Before I go any further, let me put my own cards on the table. The destruction of Hillary Clinton, I firmly believe, while propelled by a perfect storm of sexism, partisan politics and media madness, was bookended by two immensely powerful assaults. One was the inappropriate, inaccurate and inflammatory interference in the general election by FBI director James Comey. The other occurred much earlier, during the primaries, but its consequences are felt even today. I know I will make some of my younger feminist colleagues (and other left leaners) furious, which was distressing to me then, and still is.

These people, in so many ways, are my natural colleagues, and most are as upset as I am by Trump’s victory. But they played a big role in the thin edge (not a landslide, as Trump would have us believe) that gave Trump the election. For while Trump supporters hooted and cheered for their candidate, forgiving him every lie, every crime, every bit of disgusting behaviour, too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, “holding their noses”, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes. Some didn’t vote at all. And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party – not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of how he ran against her.

* Finally, as a Sanders supporter, Charles Pierce says that it’s time to put all that behind us.

This clamorous futility has to end. There’s too much at stake. The country is going off the rails and there’s a cartoon character at the wheel…

If Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp think they can’t survive without throwing Gorsuch a vote, well, I think they’re wrong. But engaging either one of them in a doomed primary attempt would be a diversion of energy and money and time that the Democratic minority can ill afford. Look, instead, to what Jon Ossoff is doing down in the Georgia 6th. He’s got them running scared—the oppo is beginning to drop—and he’s doing it without raking old intra-party wounds and settling old intra-party scores. I’m sure that, if he were to win, one day, he’ll cast a vote for which the Purity Brigade will call him a neoliberal. Other people will leap to defend him. I’m also sure that I will not be able to care less about either position.

What I do know is that electing Jon Ossoff gets the country one step closer to Minority Leader Paul Ryan, and that’s the game that matters.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.