Speaking with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Tuesday evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged to check President-elect Donald Trump’s eventual nominee for the Supreme Court.
Schumer is demanding a “mainstream” nominee from the White House legal office before Democrats would consider supporting a prospective judge, but declined to define precisely what “mainstream” entailed.
“If they don’t appoint someone who’s really good, we’re going to oppose him tooth and nail. They won’t have 60 votes to put in an out-of-the-mainstream nominee.”
“We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice,” Schumer relayed to Maddow.
Hinting darkly Republicans may be forced to change Senate rules to earn approval of Trump’s final nominee, Schumer broadcast his party would provide obstacles to any potential rule change.
The ninth seat on the High Court has remained vacant since the February 2016 death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Refusing to rule out blocking Trump’s ultimate choice for the bench, Schumer admitted to Maddow:
“It’s hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support.”
Following an exchange which highlighted the GOP Senate’s refusal to hold hearings on President Obama’s choice, Judge Merrick Garland, Maddow pressed Schumer on all aspects of the Democrats’ strategy when confronting Trump’s choice for the bench.
Probing Schumer, Maddow inquired whether the Democrats’ master plan included stalling completely and holding the seat open indefinitely, to which Schumer replied, “Absolutely.”
Dissecting Mr. Schumer’s intentions in regard to Mr. Trump’s final nominee to the Senate is relatively easy: Without implicitly stating the Senate Democrats intend to play obstructionists, Mr. Schumer is determined to hamstring the president-elect’s nominee altogether.
While Schumer’s pivot on the role he intends to play in the fight to fill the vacant seat is breathtakingly hypocritical, Republicans deserves the fight Democrats are willing to give.
Following the death of Justice Scalia, Schumer eviscerated the GOP with blinding criticism, accusing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) of discarding their responsibilities in confirming President Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland.
Of course, Mr. Schumer ignores GOP objections to Garland were based on his record, which is slightly more to the left than the esteemed senator from New York would have us believe.
While the Constitution remains silent on the number of justices sitting on the court and left its composition for Congress to determine, Article II, Section Two reads: “(The president) shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint judges of the Supreme Court.”
Interpreted literally, this passage means Congress is not obligated to consider any nominee a president submits to the upper chamber.
While GOP intransigence to Garland was rooted largely in hopes a Hillary Clinton election loss would widen a narrow path Republicans initially saw for a voice in a more-conservative jurist’s elevation to the High Court, opposition to Garland was also deeply entrenched in the GOP view President Obama had exceeded his authority too often on issues which had required consent of Congress, particularly around the Second Amendment.
In essence, the Republican Senate’s refusal to cross examine Garland was an instrument of retaliation, a weapon which Schumer now intends to harness as Minority Leader. Roiled by the GOP’s success in thwarting Mr. Obama’s choice of Garland and its victory in November 2016, Mr. Schumer and his Democratic allies are attempting to exact revenge.
While the strategy to impede Garland’s nomination became successful, the Democratic plan to mirror GOP obstruction may backfire: Elected as an outsider with no ties to the Washington political class, Mr. Trump’s alternative is to appeal to the public and brand Democrats as iron-willed partisans worthy of being tossed from office in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Political observers should brace themselves for a particularly bruising fight to fill this empty chair.
[RollCall] [New York Post] [LNT News] [Photo courtesy Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Politico]