Facing a battle over the supreme court seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy, Senate Democrats continued on Thursday to look for ways to fight. They found few options.
Recent changes to Senate rules mean that a simple majority vote is required for a supreme court nominee to advance. Democrats have 49 of 100 seats in that chamber. The absence of John McCain due to ill health means they will need to win over at least one Republican to block any nominee, while holding their caucus together. Neither task will be easy.
Donald Trump’s chosen replacement for Kennedy is likely to shift the balance of the court significantly to the right. The president has long said he will choose from a list of 25 candidates vetted by conservative groups. The list, which features federal appellate judges with sterling résumés, has raised concern among Democrats on ideological grounds. In an interview with MSNBC on Thursday, the Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal went so far as describe the potential nominees as “rightwing fringe ideologues”.
The two most likely Republican targets to oppose any such nominee are moderates, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Both support abortion rights and voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, in 2017. Any conservative replacement for Kennedy would be thought likely to vote to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion, and against remaining provisions of the ACA. Among Democratic leadership, Collins and Murkowski are considered potentially gettable.
Holding the Democratic caucus together, however, will not be easy. On Wednesday, for example,…