Why the Senate is about to go nuclear

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While the controversy surrounding Neil Gorsuch and his seemingly inevitable appointment to the Supreme Court is unlikely to end any time soon, it won’t be much longer before he is able to take his seat next to the other eight justices. However, that inevitability hasn’t taken the fight out of those Democrats who oppose him. You see, Senator Chuck Schumer plans on using the filibuster—a delay tactic that requires sixty out of one hundred votes to end—to prevent the vote on Gorsuch from taking place. As the Republicans lack enough support to force a vote, in theory it should keep Gorsuch in limbo.

Republicans, however, have openly stated that if the Democrats attempt to block Gorsuch’s election in that manner, they will simply change the rules to require a simple majority instead of the full sixty votes. A Democrat majority did just that in 2013 to prevent Republicans from blocking then President Obama’s lower court nominations, but kept the higher ceiling for the Supreme Court. They did so, in large part, because they believed it was unlikely that Obama would get the opportunity to nominate a justice for that higher court and wanted to keep the option of using the filibuster open in case they were the minority when such a day arrived.

Neither side is terribly excited about invoking the “nuclear option,” as the rules change has been termed, as even those like iconic senator John McCain who support its use fear that it will mark a fundamental shift in the atmosphere of the Senate. Currently, the Senate differs from the House of Representatives in that the threat of a filibuster has traditionally led members of both parties to work more closely together to build laws that both sides could support. If the filibuster dies, many fear that any remnants of collegiality and good will across the aisle are likely to die with it.

But if neither party wants to see the filibuster end, why are both sides apparently locked into a course that will lead to no other resolution? As CNN‘s Chris Cillizza writes, the short-term gains are seen as more important than the long-term costs. With thirty-four seats up for grabs in the 2018 midterm elections, Republican Senators need to fight for Gorsuch’s approval in order to maintain the loyalty of their constituents while the Democrats need to oppose him as a sign to their voters that they are willing to stand up to President Trump. Essentially, each side is willing to risk the long-term stability of the Senate for a shot at more seats in the next election.

Is that a good thing? Most likely not. Is it understandable? Absolutely. We’ve created a culture in which compromise is seen as weakness and government is a zero-sum game. If we aren’t winning, then we’re losing, and that means searching for someone who can better help us get what we want, even if it’s not in the long-term best interest of the country.

What works poorly in politics doesn’t work any better in our walk with the Lord. Far too often we forget that our lives here are not even a blip on the timeline of eternity. We assign far too much weight to the present cost of following Christ and ignore the bigger picture of what awaits us in heaven. In fact, in Philippians 3:8 Paul goes so far as to call such issues crap when compared to the concerns of Christ (I can’t print the more literal translation, but let’s just say Paul wasn’t worried about keeping that verse PG).

Granted, such a mentality is easier said than done. It’s hard to keep that bigger picture in mind when eternity seems so far away. Just as the senators up for re-election see next year’s votes as anything but short-term, we too can fall into the trap of valuing our personal concerns over the longer-term good of the kingdom. That doesn’t mean we’re right to do so, however, and each day offers us a chance to see our lives through God’s perspective rather than our own.

While eternity with the Father may seem far away, the truth is that we started that part of our lives the moment we accepted his offer of salvation in Christ (John 11:25–26). We can live for eternity today because today is already part of eternity. And while we may not yet be in the full presence of our Father in heaven, he dwells within each of us, longing to help us understand how to live with his bigger picture in mind. Will you let him?