Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley proclaimed Monday his intention to filibuster any Supreme Court nominee President Donald Trump chooses, but when Democrats were in the majority, the senator said that mounting a filibuster gives in to “powerful interest groups.”
“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley told Politico in an interview Monday. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”
“A very large number of my colleagues will be opposed,” he added.
Republicans only have a 52-seat majority in the upper chamber and need 60 votes to close debate that enables the members to go forward with a separate up or down simple majority vote for confirmation. Republicans would need to change the rules of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to confirm a Trump nominee without least 8 votes from Democrats.
The Oregon senator sang a completely different tune four years ago when President Obama was in office and Democrats had the majority.
“Let’s be clear: There should not be an `our President’ and `their President.’ The President is the President of the entire country, of the blue States and the red States, altogether,” Merkley stated on the floor of Senate on Nov.20, 2013. “The judicial system serves all of us regardless of our party identities. It is our responsibility to make it work.”
The comments came right before then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the filibuster rule for most judicial and executive-branch nominees, which allowed for a simple majority vote for their confirmation.
Merkley also said on the floor, “[W]e cannot allow this process in which a minority says: When our President is in charge we are going to insist on up-or-down votes, but when a President of the other party is in charge, we are not going to allow those votes.”
Merkley wrote in a 2013 op-ed in The Washington Post, “[U]nited minority caucuses, backed by powerful interest groups, seek to use the supermajority requirement to block action and discredit the majority. The resulting paralysis and partisanship hurt our nation. They are probably the largest element behind the low opinion of the Senate. Our citizens expect more.”
In Jan. 2011, Merkley became frustrated about the minority filibuster and said on the floor, “[T]he Senate is broken… Our role of advice and consent has been turned into obstruct and delay in terms of nominations for the executive branch and the judiciary. We have a constitutional responsibility to express our opinion, but this body, by using the filibuster, has prevented Senators from advising and consenting, either approving or disapproving these nominations.”