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Grim writes: "Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats in the chamber that if they don't put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base."

Senator Chuck Schumer. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)
Senator Chuck Schumer. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

Chuck Schumer Warns Senate Democrats: Fight Brett Kavanaugh or Pay the Price From the Base

By Ryan Grim, The Intercept

10 July 18


enate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats in the chamber that if they don’t put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base, according to senior Senate aides briefed on Schumer’s message.

Democratic leadership’s response in the two weeks since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement has been in stark contrast to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s firm, across-the-board rejection of any Obama nominee sent up in 2016. McConnell, flexing the power of a majority leader, announced within an hour of the news of the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia that under no circumstances would the Senate consider a nominee before the November election. But shortly after Kennedy announced his retirement on June 27, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said that “the Senate should do nothing to artificially delay” the nomination, a public pronouncement of good faith that was celebrated by Republicans and condemned swiftly by Democratic activists.

Blumenthal quickly cleaned up his statement, saying that a deliberate process to confirm any nominee would necessarily take the Senate until beyond the November elections. Since then, an organized effort to pressure Senate Democrats has conveyed the stakes for refusing to do so.

What that fierce opposition will look like, and how broad it will be, remains to be seen, as Schumer lacks the full authority over the Senate that McConnell wielded in 2016. But as a major political party just two seats shy of a majority, Democrats are not as powerless as they sometimes let on.

Schumer has told colleagues that reviving complaints about the Garland process will be ineffective, referring to Republicans’ refusal to consider Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Instead the party needs to attack the nominee specifically, Schumer’s team has advised Senate offices, according to Democratic aides who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The advice has solid grounding, both in polling and in recent history: Democratic opposition to Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, centered heavily on McConnell’s theft of the seat and the unfairness of it all. Judge Gorsuch, after a lopsided 54-45 vote in the Senate in the face of that strategy, is now Justice Gorsuch.

It’s unusual for Schumer or Democratic leaders to eschew an argument about the political process, which tends to be their comfort zone. In 2016, for example, Democrats made their argument against McConnell about process, launching a “We Need Nine” campaign, an ultimately futile effort to rally the American people around the notion that the Supreme Court would function best with a particular number of justices on it. According to sources involved in the current judicial fight, the shift is backed up by recent internal polling that showed that voters are motivated to oppose Trump’s pick not over process, but over substance — particularly around abortion rights, which also serves as a proxy for constitutional rights more generally.

With the announcement Monday night that Trump has selected Brett Kavanaugh as his next justice, the question of how unified Schumer can keep his caucus will determine whether the votes of Republican senators who have shown some semblance of independence, such as Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, or Dean Heller, will come into play.

Collins and Murkowski support legal abortion — a constitutional right long upheld by the Supreme Court, but that Trump has pledged to overturn by appointing justices who want to criminalize abortion. The Federalist Society screened Supreme Court applicants for Trump with overturning Roe v. Wade in mind, so there is little mystery where Kavanaugh stands. As a lower court judge, he tried to stall an immigrant minor held in detention from getting an abortion, though ultimately conceded that eventually it would have to be offered, because “the Government will be required by existing Supreme Court precedent to allow the abortion.” That precedent would no longer be binding if a new court, with Kavanugh casting the deciding vote, overturned it.

With 51 seats in the Senate, Republicans have a very slim majority. The ailing John McCain of Arizona is unlikely to be able to vote, meaning a single defection could defeat a nominee by a 50-49 vote. Collins has said that she will not vote to confirm any nominee who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Out of the gate, some Democrats say they’re girding for battle. “I will vote against Judge Kavanaugh and work hard to tell the country what kind of damage he will do if confirmed. There is a fight coming, and I’m ready for it,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., noting the judge’s record against abortion rights and gun control. Murphy added that “Trump outsourced the biggest decision of his administration to the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, two political groups that gave him a list of acceptable nominees to the anti-choice, pro-corporate right.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also pledged her quick opposition, noting that Kavanaugh is also opposed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Democratic senators and activists gathered outside the Supreme Court on Monday night to pledge a willingness to fight the nominee. “Are you ready for a fight? Are you ready to defend Roe versus Wade?” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked the crowd of hundreds. Blumenthal, Warren, and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon joined Sanders at the court.

For Democrats to put up a united opposition, Schumer would have to corral Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all of whom face re-election in November in states won by Trump and are accustomed to having free reign. Heitkamp, Donnelly, and Manchin all voted to confirm Gorsuch.

Whipping those Senate votes into line will require Schumer to push his colleagues in ways he never has before. “Chuck has spent his career trying to make everyone of his colleagues happy and telling them what they want to hear,” said one Democratic senator, speaking anonymously so as not to anger the party’s Senate leader. “There’s no sense of leadership. It just feel as if everyone is in a big tent, just staying where they are, doing whatever they feel is in their best interests.”

Recent confirmation fights have not been impressive displays of united opposition. Six Democrats joined 48 Republicans to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director, despite her role in advocating for and overseeing torture at the CIA, as well as her refusal to declassify or otherwise share documents related to her record. Seven Democratic senators similarly voted to confirm Mike Pompeo, Trump’s hawkish pick for secretary of state after he fired Rex Tillerson from the job.

Pressure will be on Collins and Murkowski only as long as Democrats stay united either in opposition to or at least not in support of Trump’s pick, producing something of a staring contest between the two sides. Given the one-vote margin, the minute that a red-state Democrat signals support for Kavanaugh, a decision by Collins or Murkowski becomes less important. Both Republicans and Democrats, though, can make the intuitive-sounding argument that it is wise to study a nominee, read what they’ve written, meet with them personally, and see how they do in confirmation hearings before announcing a decision.

After all, that’s precisely what Democrats vainly requested Senate Republicans do with Garland: Just give him a chance.

Activists have suggested to Democratic leaders that the party walk out of the committee hearing in protest or refuse to show up. Neither tactic could on its own block Kavanaugh, but it would put a spotlight on how radical the nominee is and how dire the situation. Given the extremism of the nominee, argue the activists, the process can’t be normalized.

The party’s leadership may have decided to fight Kavanugh’s nomination, but what that will look like in practice is uncertain. A spokesperson for Schumer declined to preview what such a battle might look like. Privately, Schumer’s aides have cautioned other Democrats that there is no secret weapon a party in the minority can pull out. Schumer’s aides have warned that if senators attempt to deny a quorum on the Senate floor, rules would allow Republicans to pass legislation by unanimous consent until a Democrat arrived to object.

Senate Democratic leaders are clear on at least one point. As one senior Democratic aide put it, “If we don’t put up a fight, there’s going to be hell to pay.” your social media marketing partner


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+59 # librarian1984 2018-07-10 13:06
"If we don't put up a fight, there's going to be hell to pay"

A direct result of pressure from progressives rather than the whinging of DP apologists.

Feet, meet fire.
+5 # Merlin 2018-07-10 16:38
Hi Librarian,
I have just recently gotten contact with Radscal when he responded to me. He said that he would love to hear from you, personally, if he had your email. If you would like to reach him, you can contact me through my email, which you already have, and I will pass your info on to him. This way only my email is public. Much safer that way!
+6 # economagic 2018-07-10 20:55
Wow, old home week!
+4 # Radscal 2018-07-11 13:44
Hi Librarian. If this post meets approval, I wanted to confirm that I'd love to hear from you.
+43 # dkonstruction 2018-07-10 13:13
How about threatening that there'll be hell to pay from the party as well as
in if you don't fight like hell and vote no that you'll receive no support including funding from the DNC for your reelection campaign and the party will back a democratic primary challenger instead...not that the party (or Schumer would do this as it requires a backbone and spine but still....
+11 # E.V.Debs 2018-07-10 18:41
The DNC of course, were the bumbling architects of the Hillary defeat. The DCCC waws just as bad. Tom Perez talks like a progressive, but he refused to give James Thompson, a viable candidate in Kansas, a dime. Thompson lost by 6%, unable to afford a single mailer to rural constituents. Drumpf and Pompeo had carried that district by nearly 30%.
+9 # E.V.Debs 2018-07-10 18:52
In 2006, Schumer, Leahy and Feingold vigorously opposed Kavanaugh in committee. Specter used his majority to get him to the senate floor. Without saying so, Kavanaugh refused to answer their questions, which were very good ones.
-4 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-07-10 13:49
We should stick to the issues, not just fuel the Divide and Conquer that has allowed Trump to be President, the Republicans to accomplish every wet dream since Reagan (cut taxes on the Rich, gut regulations on Wall Street and the environment, and privatize education). The corrupt Supreme Court has been going on since they selected W.Bush to be President. A 5-to-4 decision that two of the five were appointed to Justices by his Dad (H.W. Bush) and did NOT recuse themselves. We got Citizens United out of it. Remember Justice Thomas was wholly unqualified to be on the Court, but they deflected that by focusing on Anita Thomas ("a high tech lynching"). Focus on the issues here, not obstruction.
+12 # Texas Aggie 2018-07-10 16:03
Obstruction IS the ONLY way to deal with the issues.
+18 # E.V.Debs 2018-07-10 18:55
Actually Biden refused to put a second witness, who would have told a story non unlike Anita's, on to testify. She probably would have tanked Uncle Thomas's confirmation.
+8 # economagic 2018-07-10 21:02
Yes, and incredible as it seems, you are the first person besides myself that I have heard refer to him by that sobriquet. Maybe I really am THAT disconnected from "The Media."
+47 # Street Level 2018-07-10 14:00
Just the title of the article disgusts me.
The fact that the fricken Democrats have to be TOLD this is just another reason why progressive's need to wrest control of the party. The DNCC is a corporation who's members are Republican-Light.

And btw Mr.Shumer, there's already hell to pay!
+42 # MidwestDick 2018-07-10 14:10
Senators should aggressively vet this nominee, creating news that is hard to ignore as they interrogate him.
There should be a heavy focus on what promises he made to the President* concerning his upcoming battle with the the special counsel's office. Whatever ass-kissing Kavanaugh did will come out as do all of Trump's doings. Most likely he swore some kind of personal loyalty, which is in itself a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
This thing is so corrupt. Kennedy gave up his seat because he would have had to recuse himself when his son's name came up, as Kennedy knows it will, in the battle with the special counsel. Then Trump turned around and picked a loyalist who will advocate for him on the high court. It is of paramount importance to the survival of the Republic that no such individual be impaneled when the court meets to settle matters between the special counsel and the worst and most dangerous president in history.
+1 # skylinefirepest 2018-07-10 14:20
There should be hell to pay if they don't vote for AMERICA instead of the frigging democrap party!
+15 # Texas Aggie 2018-07-10 16:06
At the moment, opposing the fascists is the only way to vote for America. That is the sworn duty of every American, and those who neglect it lose their right to be considered Americans.
+9 # lfeuille 2018-07-10 16:57
Voting for the Trump count is voting against America.
+2 # economagic 2018-07-10 21:07
Now yer talkin'! (Did I already say that? Sometimes with this web sit it's hard to tell.)
+8 # Art947 2018-07-10 15:55
Until the morgue is filled with the bodies of the corrupt Rethugnicans and the DINOS who kowtow to their corporate masters, the U.S.A. will continue on its path to being a third-world country.

It is truly amazing that a country that has stood for liberty, democracy, individual freedom, etc. has elevated slugs like, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Alito, Roberts and Thomas to positions that are honored and used to deserve respect. A plague on SCOTUS and much of the Federal judiciary.
+15 # Texas Aggie 2018-07-10 16:08
“If we don’t put up a fight, there’s going to be hell to pay.”

It looks like the word is finally getting through to the PTB. Keep up the pressure because it's the only way to stop the descent into disaster.
+9 # lfeuille 2018-07-10 17:01
Some of them. Schumer has always been more diplomatic in screwing progressives than Pelosi. He recognizes the danger in pissing us off, but it's mostly just sweet talk, no concrete action.
+9 # lfeuille 2018-07-10 16:56
Schumer has to threaten to cut them off from party money if he is going to get those 5 senators to fall in line. I doubt he has the guts. And I doubt the Collins has the guts to defy Trump anyway. I think the only solution will be to increase the court after a Dem. landslide which probably won't happen if the Dems. don't hold firm on the court. Catch-22.
+18 # Merlin 2018-07-10 18:02
“Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats that if they don’t put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base.”

It is evident from the above, Schumer is telling “HIS DINOcrats” that he is not part of that “base” nor does he represent that “base.” They are that despised, unmanageable, rowdy group of “others” who should be ignored, but who, in this case, can’t be. “(Hey guys! We just have to do something to appease these idiots-you know-for our own survival. We gotta make this look good! Ya got it?”)

His “call to action” here, should not be assumed to represent any “new understanding” or “recognition” by Schumer, of Progressives and the platform we stand for, (as opposed to the “Better Deal” nothing platform his DINOcrats so boldly offered.)

That said, I will accept any fight these DINOs are forced into, whatever their selfish reason. In fact, getting them to do the right thing, through the use of fear, (like losing their jobs,) is a good short term tactic, as we work on ridding our congress of these ‘bought and sold’ assholes.
+13 # tedrey 2018-07-10 18:38
If the DNC continues to sabotage the progressives there will be enough hell to pay to blister the Dem party for good!
+4 # chemtex2611 2018-07-11 00:07
The GOP will become known as a scorched earth party by women and minorities and many sane people. They have a "my way or die" attitude. When the tide turns, they will become the world's worst whiners.
+6 # RLF 2018-07-11 05:27
Schumer jumps on the bandwagon when he knows people are watching but when he gutted Dodd/Franke for his banker pals he was very quiet! Schumer wants to be president otherwise he'd be singing the old Democrat party song..."Can't we work together?"
+8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-07-11 07:47
Schumer and other demo leaders are always drawing these high profile lines in the sand, but they never respond to their base on the day to day issues. I'm tired of this sort of symbolic opposition to the imposition of conservatives in every agency of government. This issue is a lost cause - though the margin is very close.

I'd rather see Schumer begin to respond to the left-wing base of the demo party more broadly. He should start by endorsing Sanders as the front runner for the 2020 presidential race. Sanders may choose not to run, but he is setting the stage for a progressive candidate.

Schumer should stand up against bank de-regulation. Stand up for Medicare for all.

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