In short, you can't get a Republican senator to vote for a judicial appointment without the NRA seal of approval (a factor the GOP's Lisa Murkowski expressed some misgivings about even as she fell in line).
... The N.R.A. has embedded itself so deeply into the culture of Republican politics that it would take a cataclysm to break the bonds of money and fear that keep Republican office holders captive to the gun lobby’s agenda.
Well, a cataclysm just occurred, a few dozen miles from my office at Yale Law School. (My late father-in-law was born on a farm in the Sandy Hook neighborhood of Newtown.) There will be legislative proposals, and members of the Senate and House will debate them, maybe even enact a few, and people back home can decide what they think. How to get a handle on the gun problem is not my point. Rather, I want to offer the judicial nomination story as a canary in the mine, a warning about the depths to which the power of the gun lobby has brought the political system.
My point is this: It is totally unacceptable for the N.R.A., desperate to hang on to its mission and its members after achieving its Second Amendment triumph at the Supreme Court four years ago, to be calling the tune on judicial nominations for an entire political party. Free the Republican caucus. Follow Lisa Murkowski’s lead. Recognize a naked power play for what it is. Voters who think they care about the crisis of gun violence in America are part of the problem, not the solution — they are enablers if they aren’t willing to help their elected representatives cast off the N.R.A.’s chains. Call for an end to the cowardly filibuster against Caitlin Halligan, whose nomination the president resubmitted in September. The next time a senator announces opposition to a judicial nominee, demand something other than incoherent mumbo-jumbo. Tell the senator to fill in the blank: “I oppose this nominee because ____.” If there’s an answer of substance, fine. That’s advise-and-consent democracy. But if, upon inspection, the real answer is “because the N.R.A. told me to,” we have a problem. Based on these last few years, I think we do.