In 2010, I (and others) criticized the Democratic leadership (including then Majority Leader Harry Reid and many of the continuing Democratic senators) for their use of the “nuclear option” in curtailing the power of the filibuster. I was equally critical of Republican leaders who previously suggested such a course of action. The Democrats acted with little concern that they might ever be in the minority and need this critical power. They muscled through the Affordable Care Act on a marginal vote that cost various members their seats and passed a highly flawed bill that was plagued by problems of bad drafting and poor planning. Moreover, they secured relatively few confirmations to federal office. The result was the final demise of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees when the Republicans took power. The result for the Democrats is Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by a 50 to 48 vote.
Kavanaugh was confirmed by the smallest margin since 1881. In 1881, Justice Stanley Matthews was confirmed in a vote of 24-23. Matthews served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 23rd Ohio in the Civil War under the command of Rutherford Hayes and with fellow officer William McKinley. He also was a student with Hayes at Kenyon College.
In 1881, Hayes nominated Matthews for the Supreme Court but his close association was viewed as cronyism. Like Merritt Garland, the Senate never acted on the nomination. However, Matthews was then nominated again by James Garfield — leading to his narrow margin of confirmation.
Here is Harry Reid and the Democrats throwing caution and self-preservation to the winds in a move that would ultimately put Kavanaugh on the Court — and may open up a new conservative era of the Court.