Schumer Doubles Down On Supreme Court, Will Keep Seat Open If Nominee Is Not 'Mainstream'

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 23, 2017 3:15 PM
Schumer Doubles Down On Supreme Court, Will Keep Seat Open If Nominee Is Not 'Mainstream'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is ready to fight the Trump White House to the death on the Supreme Court. Faced with a sustained conservative majority for the next generation, Democrats will do all that they can to prevent that, even if it means flip-flopping on their position regarding the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. When Scalia passed away last year, there was urgency to fill the vacancy lest the entire judicial system collapse. Republicans, citing precedent set by former Vice President Joe Biden stood firm, stating no nominee should be confirmed in an election year. Now, with Trump winning the election, Democrats, who have no precedent to block a nominee, are willing to entertain a vacancy for as long as it takes unless President Trump nominates a liberal. Over the weekend, Schumer doubled down on this position (via The Hill):

“If the nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream, we absolutely will keep the seat open,” Schumer told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Supreme Court vacancy has been open since last February, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away.

Schumer said he is prepared to fight "tooth and nail" should Trump not choose a mainstream nominee.

Politically, he needs to do something to show his base that the Left is fighting Trump. He needs a win (or an area where he can mount a fight) because all of Trump’s nominees will be confirmed. All of them, which was predictable when he set out to stop eight nominations, probably knowing that this would end in failure since he and his former boss, former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), decided to nuke the filibuster rules for presidential appointments. It's quite the embarrassment. Kimberly Strassel at The Wall Street Journal noted how the cabinet fight started with an 0-8 loss for Schumer:

Mr. Schumer spent 2016 strategizing with his caucus over all they’d do as a majority under a Hillary Clinton presidency. They brainstormed Democratic nominees, plotted legislation, planned rollouts. What they never did was devote a single minute to charting a response to a Trump administration. That idea was inconceivable. Until it wasn’t.

And so Mr. Schumer’s party—normally so disciplined about talking points—has been scattershot in its criticism of nominees, with each liberal senator offering different, meandering attacks. And then there are the rebels. Mr. Reid ruled his caucus with an iron fist. Mr. Schumer, at least so far, is ruling with a wet noodle. The Joe Manchins and Heidi Heitkamps of the world—Democrats who are up for re-election in 2018, in states Mr. Trump won—are currently more fearful of voter backlash than they are of a certain New York senator. Thus many Trump nominees will get a fair number of Democratic votes.

[…]

And to Republicans’ credit, they’ve stuck. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set an early tone by quickly endorsing controversial Trump nominees (Rex Tillerson,Jeff Sessions). His leadership team has worked the ranks, keeping Senate Republicans informed and working on the same page. Committee chairmen have been resolute, accommodating Democratic requests where appropriate, but generally squelching opposition demands to upend all the normal rules and procedures.

[…]

Mr. Schumer is making the same mistake Mrs. Clinton did—dancing to the tune of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and their progressive army, who want obstruction and carnage.

With the Supreme Court, the 60-vote threshold stands. The GOP needs to overcome an eight-vote hurdle, which is a project. Yet, when you look at the list of 21 possible candidates for SCOTUS, the list isn’t absurd. They’re full of highly qualified legal minds, vetted by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Yes, they’re conservative; was there any shock about that, Mr. Schumer? When the nomination process for whomever Trump nominates begins, there will be Democratic opposition because they just don’t like the nominee’s opinions. That’s fine, but what they won’t be able to argue from the list that’s been released is that they’re not qualified.