Couldn't the Democrats refuse to shut down debate, thereby requiring the Alito nomination to pass a 60-vote hurdle? They could. But there are consequences to that move, and this morning, the consequences don't look good. Olympia Snowe -- the moderate Republican senator from Maine who is a member of the "Gang of 14," the group of centrist senators who pulled that body away from the brink of the "nuclear option" (eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominees) last year -- says that she will not support a filibuster. Under the terms of the gang's deal, if Democrats in that group support a filibuster, Snowe would vote in favor of eliminating the filibuster.
If other Republicans in the gang do the same, the Democrats would be sunk: Not only would Alito sail through, but the left would also lose the right to filibuster any future nominees to the Supreme Court as well as to lower federal courts. And, of course, Democrats could face various other political repercussions stemming from the tactic, which is something many may fear during what's shaping up to be a winning political year.Sad, but probably correct.