When President Obama selected Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat, Republicans refused to hold a hearing, much less vote. Now that Gorsuch has been selected by Republicans, why can't Democrats refuse to hold a hearing instead of merely filibustering (like Republicans did with Garland)? I know the fact that the Senate is controlled by Republicans is probably part of the answer, but I can't be sure because I can't find an answer either way.

  • 7
    Cause Republicans control the Senate and they have the votes to proceed with the voting
    – Panda
    Apr 6, 2017 at 6:01

1 Answer 1


The Senate Judiciary Committee is in charge of holding hearings prior to the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.

Since Republicans control the Senate, the 20-member committee would consist of 11 Republicans and 9 Democrats. This means that the Republicans hold a majority in this committee, thus they would have enough votes to grant or withhold consent on nominees by the President.

In Garland's case, the 11 Republican members of the committee signed a letter to the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Feb 23, 2016 that they would not hold any hearings for any nominee made by President Obama until the next President takes office.

However, since the Democrats failed to get a majority in the Senate after the 2016 Senate election, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate now and thereby also have a majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thus, they can decide to hold hearings which they did on Apr 3, 2017 with a 11-9 party-line vote.

  • 1
    This is an excellent answer, but you may also want to cover the intangibles angle - there would be political capital costs to Democrats to be obstructionist about this even if they could - in part because the situations are VASTLY different politically ("conservative" seat being replaced means appointing "liberal" judge is not necessarily seen as "fair"; and last year of lame-duck president vs. first year of new one).
    – user4012
    Apr 6, 2017 at 13:36
  • 2
    @user4012 while those are interesting points, given the opportunity to deny Gorsuch or any republican appointment to the bench they would regardless of political costs. At least that is what I get from the Dem Leader Chucky Shumer. Apr 6, 2017 at 15:22
  • 1
    @user4012 what political cost? I think the dems have backing of their party on this one.
    – user1530
    Apr 6, 2017 at 15:42
  • @blip - I don't think the political cost is zero, though obviously it will not be super great. Republicans had the backing of their party for their actions, yet suffered unpopularity hit when perceived as obstructionist
    – user4012
    Apr 6, 2017 at 16:25
  • 1
    @user4012 yea, I suppose it could go either way. At the moment, I think they have more to gain in terms of momentum but yes, there could be blowback down the road. That said, I do think another big difference here is that the GOP was being obstructionist and the Dems are now being retaliatory. Does that difference matter? I'm not sure.
    – user1530
    Apr 6, 2017 at 16:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .