Democrat senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), on Saturday threatened that “nothing is off the table” if Republicans hold a vote on a new Supreme Court Justice before the election.
CNN’s senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju reported that Schumer told Democrats on a call: “Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year. Nothing is off the table.
Schumer tells Dems: “Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year. Nothing is off the table,” per source on call
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 19, 2020
Twenty minutes later, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) made the same threat, tweeting, “If Republicans recklessly & reprehensibly force a SCOTUS vote before the election—nothing is off the table.”
If Republicans recklessly & reprehensibly force a SCOTUS vote before the election—nothing is off the table.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) September 19, 2020
The threat leaves open the possibility of packing the Supreme Court, an idea many Democratic presidential candidates said they were at least open to. Left-wing media outlets have also published numerous articles suggesting that’s exactly how Democrats should respond if Republicans install a new Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, however, previously said he was not open to court packing.
The fact that Democrats and their media supporters are so open to court packing shows they only care about the judicial body if it is on their side, tweeted National Review editor Rich Lowry.
“That the Left has taken up court-packing so readily shows how it never really took the court seriously as a court—instead it has thought of it primarily as a quasi-legislative body useful to the extent it enshrines its policy goals,” Lowry tweeted Saturday night.
That the Left has taken up court-packing so readily shows how it never really took the court seriously as a court—instead it has thought of it primarily as a quasi-legislative body useful to the extent it enshrines its policy goals
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) September 20, 2020
Democrats are still sore over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) 2016 refusal to hold a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. McConnell argued at the time that since the 2016 election would install a new president – either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” adding that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
At the time, Democrats controlled the White House and Republicans controlled the Senate following multiple elections where Democrats lost majorities during Obama’s terms. In 2020, Republicans control the White House and the Senate, making the two situations distinct. Obama exercised his right to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, and Republicans in the Senate exercised their right not to hold a vote. Obama had no right to get his nominee appointed just because he was nominated.
In 2016, when Obama nominated a left-leaning judge, Ginsburg herself argued the Senate should hold a vote on the nominee, saying: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.” She also said during this same interview that “Eight is not a good number,” referring to the remaining number of Supreme Court justices.
Following Ginsburg’s death, McConnell released a statement explaining the differences between the two years.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” McConnell said.
“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promises,” McConnell added. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”