Thursday , September 21 2017 US

Supreme Court fight over Gorsuch puts Schumer in a bind

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y.

February 06, 2017

Within hours of President Trump’s announcement that he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a conservative group launched a $7 million ad campaign aimed at pressuring politically vulnerable red-state Senate Democrats to vote for for nominee.

At the same moment, thousands of protesters swarmed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., Brooklyn apartment, some of them waiving plastic spines, demanding that Schumer and the Democrats hold firm and block Gorsuch from the high court.

Schumer, who is in his first term as Senate Democrat leader, is in a difficult political position as the Senate considers the nomination of Gorsuch, a highly respected jurist currently serving on the bench of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

With five vulnerable Democrats and eight more seats on the verge of being competitive in 2018, Schumer must find a way to satisfy the Democratic base by fighting the nomination without jeopardizing the re-election prospects of a big portion of his caucus who have to run for re-election in states that Trump won.

Complicating matters for Schumer, the Democrats’ already restive liberal base has been roused by Trump’s string of executive actions, which is putting even more pressure on Democrats to stop the GOP’s Supreme Court nominee.

Schumer is so far refusing to say definitively whether he’ll vote for Gorsuch, or if he’ll even organize Democrat opposition against him. But Schumer has criticized Gorsuch’s record, which he says shows the judge sides with corporations and criticizes liberals.

Schumer has also said he would invoke a requirement that the nominee will need 60 votes, a move that will make it much harder for him to win approval since the GOP controls only 52 votes.

“Judge Neil Gorsuch, throughout his career, has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility to women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong and independent justice on the court,” Schumer said in a Senate floor speech.

The Democrats’ base is making it clear to Schumer they want him to ensure Gorsuch does not win 60 votes. The pro-abortion rights group NARAL quickly condemned Gorsuch in the moments after Trump introduced him in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.

“NARAL and our 1.2 million member-activists call on the Senate to reject Trump’s nominee using any and all available means, including the filibuster,” President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement.

The theory is that Democrats from states that Trump won would be in trouble with voters if they filibuster Trump’s nominee. But Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which ranks races, said it’s not clear whether red-state Democrats would suffer politically based on their Gorsuch vote.

“It depends on how red-state Democrats react to the filibuster,” Duffy told the Washington Examiner. “If they join it or seem to passively accept it, they will have a problem. If they go through the due diligence of meeting with Gorsuch and rendering an opinion that is communicated well with their constituents, they might be fine, regardless of what their Democrat colleagues do.”

Some red-state Democrats issued carefully worded reactions to the Gorsuch announcement, calling for at least a hearing and vote within the Judiciary Committee.

“We should have a full confirmation hearing process and a vote on ANY nominee for the Supreme Court,” tweeted Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who is among the more vulnerable 2018 Democrats.

When some misinterpreted the tweet and reported McCaskill would not filibuster Gorsuch, she tweeted again: “Why would anyone think that because I support confirmation hearing & 60 vote threshold for SupCt nominee that means I’m folding to Trump?”

One of the Senate’s most liberal Democrats, who is also among the most vulnerable in 2018, is opposing Gorsuch.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, where Trump won handily, wasted no time announcing his opposition to the pick.

“The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests,” Brown said in a statement. “And Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test.”