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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Bottom line: Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed, the rest is noise

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2017. Credit: AP

Neil Gorsuch will be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice, barring something seismic.

The rest is political noise.

This noise would be easier to dismiss if Senate members didn’t call an upcoming Republican move to push his nomination through the “nuclear option.”

The absurdly exaggerated image of catastrophic destruction applies to a parliamentary device to keep the Democratic minority from frustrating the will of the Republican majority.

Under Senate rules, it usually takes a three-fifths majority to kill a filibuster, the legislative version of a roadblock.

To clear this roadblock, the majority leader — who does not control that much of the chamber — takes steps to get around the rules and make it a majority vote. This is a number Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can and will muster. Once that’s done, Gorsuch needs a simple majority to be confirmed.

And by the way, the last Democratic majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, did the same thing to crush GOP obstructions on President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations.

That use of the “nuclear option” didn’t exactly blow the dome off the Capitol.

Which is not to say that noisy political agitation has no impact.

The polarization between the major parties in Washington, D.C., has remained intense through President Donald Trump’s election. And it drives the way Congress operates and what it tells the people.

By reaching for the filibuster and forcing McConnell’s hand, Democrats are executing a protest and creating a show of solidarity — a response to having watched the GOP squelch a Democratic Supreme Court nomination.

If the target is Trump, Gorsuch doesn’t seem to be a peculiarly Trumpian nominee. By most accounts, he is a well-regarded legal professional and the kind of conservative any Republican president would have put forward.

Some observers see implications for the future, and argue about whether either party benefits from having the filibuster fight now or later.

But at least in theory, any legislature’s rules can be changed or finessed, depending on circumstance and who’s in charge. One way or another, Gorsuch is in line to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the high court.

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