*This piece originally appeared on Chicago-Kent 's ISCOTUS now blog.
by Carolyn Shapiro, Associate Professor of Law, Co-Director, Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States (ISCOTUS), IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
Going nuclear may serve Republicans today, but in the long term, it may do more for Democrats. Thursday, in response to a Democratic filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the Republicans voted to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination. The Republicans have an immediate victory here: Justice Gorsuch will be sitting on the Supreme Court before its oral arguments scheduled for later this month. But in the long run, the elimination of the filibuster may help Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. (I am not alone in thinking about unintended consequences here. Nate Silver of 538.com has an extensive piece about how Republicans have generally used the filibuster more effectively than Democrats to block legislation and arguing that eroding its power may thus advantage Democrats in areas beyond the Supreme Court.)
As a general matter, Republican nominees over the past 35 years have been quite conservative. During that time Republican nominees included Scalia, Rehnquist (to become Chief Justice), Thomas, Roberts, Alito – and, of course, Bork. There are of course the notable exceptions of Justices Souter (who turned out to be a surprising moderate liberal) and Kennedy (a moderate conservative), but overall, the Republican roster has been notably conservative – and at least as important, they were perceived as such when nominated. In this regard, Judge Gorsuch fits right in (no pun intended).
In contrast, the Democratic nominees during this timeframe