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Eleven years ago today, the U.S. Senate voted 72-25 to end debate on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. (Two Republicans and Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa did not vote.)

Eleven years ago tomorrow, Alito was confirmed by a vote of 58 to 42.

As President Trump prepares to nominate a new justice tomorrow evening, the question on everyone’s mind is whether we’re headed toward a nuclear confrontation — that is, a confrontation in which 41 of the 48 Democratic senators are willing to filibuster Trump’s pick, preventing him or her from getting an up-or-down vote on confirmation.

If Democrats cobble together the votes needed for a filibuster, Senate Republicans may well respond in kind, changing precedent as Democrats did in 2013 to diminish the Senate minority’s rights once again. In this case, they would end the minority’s right to unlimited debate on Supreme Court nominations.

How much has the Senate changed since 2006? Quite a bit. Of the 45 Democrats in the Senate in January 2006, only 12 remain the Senate today.

Nine of those twelve (Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.) were among the 25 who voted to filibuster Alito. Other notables who filibustered but are no longer in the Senate: Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Hillary Clinton.

The other three Democrats who remain today (Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Tom Carper, D-Del., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.) voted to end debate on Alito, but all three of these also voted against his confirmation. The other 16 Democrats who voted against the filibuster are since gone — 12 of them retired, three defeated, and one (Ken Salazar) elevated into Obama’s administration.

So you could say there isn’t much institutional memory left among Senate Democrats of the gentler times when it was assumed that at least the president’s Supreme Court nominations would get a vote. Some of the newer Democratic senators may believe in this, but others might not.

And of course, if Democrats resort in large numbers to more radical tactics this time, they are sure to cite Republicans’ decision to ignore President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland last year.

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