If there's one thing that's a given that the Senate will experience post-going nuclear, it's ongoing and probably even escalated Republican obstruction in other areas—if it could get worse, that is. That's a given, and a given that Senate Democrats have been very much aware the whole time, and won't be surprised to see. They will still use up every bit of debate time they can wring out of the still-existing rules and procedures to delay every nomination for as long as they can. They will still filibuster every piece of legislation for whatever reason they feel like.
One thing they'll probably also do to head of nominees is something we've already seen a preview of: boycott committee meetings where the nomination is being heard. They did it to Gina McCarthy at EPA, refused to show up so that there wouldn't be a quorum in the committee and the nomination couldn't be acted on. We'll probably see more of that, but we might also see something kind of cool. A silver lining of obstruction in committee, as interpreted by The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen.
The coming era means that Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for federal judges now will be consistently more intense, partisan, and revelatory than they have ever been before.Of course, Chuck Grassley is still on the Judiciary Committee, so no one should hold their breath about having too much weight and substance in the hearings.
This, folks, is rockin' good news.
The relentless use of the filibuster shifted the fight over judicial nominees from the Judiciary Committee to the floor of the Senate. But there wasn't much meaningful debate of the merits of the nominees' qualifications in either place, especially recently. President Obama gets some credit for the lack of substantive criticism; the three nominees whose Senate rejections forced the rule change are each exceptionally qualified. But now the fight over these public servants shifts back to the Judiciary Committee—where it belongs and where there now exists a great deal of built-in political incentive to hold hearings where people actually have conversations of great weight and substance.
But now Republicans are going to have come up with real, valid, substantive reasons to oppose a nominee. They won't be able to do it just to block President Obama, or as in the case of Robert Cordray at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to nullify some law they don't like. If they really want to stop a nominee now, they're going to have to bring something real, and that's nothing but good for our government.