Chuck Schumer Throws His Body On The Machine

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Michael Bennet.

As The Hill reports, Democrats in Washington are beginning to engage in whatever resistance they can without the votes to actually stop the Republican majority with steamrolling ahead on a new Supreme Court Justice six weeks before Election Day 2020:

Senate Democrats are limiting the ability to hold committee hearings in retaliation for Republicans decision to try to fill a Supreme Court seat in the middle of an election year, the first action in what is likely to be an increasingly combative battle over procedure in the Senate.

A Democratic aide confirmed that Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had invoked the so-called “two hour rule,” which can be used to limit the ability to hold committee hearings after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours…

“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

A campaign of procedural obstruction to slow down business in the Senate, not unlike the delay tactics waged by Colorado GOP minorities in the General Assembly under Democratic control in 2019, certainly do have the ability to protract and exact the maximum political damage from a majority determined to carry out their agenda. Although Republicans have the votes to push a Supreme Court nominee through to a confirmation vote, even without confirmation hearings, our local Republicans are an example of how well a cohesive minority can jam up the majority–and that’s before we start talking about the moral differences between then and now.

Procedural obstruction may not be the limit of what Democrats can do. Colorado-based liberal commentator David Sirota suggests threatening a full government shutdown, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi has reportedly ruled out, or impeaching William Barr to play havoc with the Senate calendar. But we also know from Colorado experience that while the minority gets their say, it’s the majority who gets their way. And as CNN’s Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica report, it’s the threat of what Democrats have the power to do in the increasingly likely event they win the Senate majority and the White House that might prove the only real bargaining chip:

Sean McElwee, co-founder and executive director of the progressive group Data for Progress, called the threat of eliminating the filibuster, adding justices to the court and new seats in the Senate, the Democratic Senate minority’s “only credible threat.”

“You need a number of Democratic senators to be sending that message to McConnell, because it’s really the only point of leverage that Democrats have,” McElwee said. “Most of the procedural stuff that I’m seeing come out there is a bit of a fantasy, to be entirely frank.”

In the end, Democrats have little to risk from fighting it out over this nomination, and employing every kind of resistance tactic feasible to disrupt Republicans as they barrel with majority power toward the inevitable–along with very explicit promises about how Democrats will remediate the judiciary’s lurch to the right under Donald Trump after victory in November. The specific question of a government shutdown is more complicated because of the ongoing economic and health emergencies of 2020, but everything short of that seems like a no-brainer.

With all of this in mind, however, it’s not pre-emptive concession to acknowledge that this outcome was ensured by Trump’s victory in 2016, and Republican control of the U.S. Senate predating Trump. Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blinks, the only remedy for anything that happens before next January comes at the polls in November.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    Pretty much.  We need to say, if you fill the seat, when we take over, we’re going to expand the court. And if they go forward, we beat them at the polls and make good on our threat.

    • gertie97 says:

      Threatening to expand the court might be a loser at the polls. Be careful what you wish for.

      • Voyageur says:

        It sure blew up for FDR.  

      • Duke Cox says:

        Threats are for chumps, Gertie.😉

        Just win the election and do it. That's my advice.

        • JohnInDenver says:

          The FDR proposal/threat to add Justices to the court for every one who reached 70 years and 6 months — Court-Packing — didn't "work"

           *  Because members of the Democratic majority of the Senate decided to abandon FDR's proposal.  One held it up in committee, one of the main advocates died.  Some felt it was too extreme and disrupted settled norms,

           * But suddenly, one of the conservative members of the Court reversed positions and ended a string of New Deal limiting decisions: 

          "The switch in time that saved nine" is the phrase, originally a quip by humorist Cal Tinney, about what was perceived in 1937 as the sudden jurisprudential shift by Associate Justice Owen Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court

          It may be a fanciful notion — and the Justice involved burned his papers.  Others on the Court said "of course not." Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote he'd been able to persuade Roberts by encouraging him to carefully consider ONLY what was argued and not rely on prior beliefs. 

           * At the end of the 1936-37 Supreme Court term, one of the conservative block, Justice Van Devanter, retired, allowing FDR to nominate Hugo Black and have him begin a 34 year tenure on the bench.

          Lesson to be learned — don't publicly propose a shift until you've counted votes and made certain it can pass (or at least be seriously considered).

          • CDW says:

            yes. A discussion at Crooked Timber blog recently said it was the threat of expansion that made the Court back off its attacks on New Deal legislation. 

            As much as I would like to see an aggressive response from Democrats, I think court packing would not be the way to go.  If a bill made it through a Democratic Congress, it would immediately be challenged and sooner than later wind up in a 6-3 Federalist Society court. 

      • unnamed says:

        What Duke said.  Furthermore, Dems could do it privately now, and if need be, sell a SCOTUS expansion should they decide to implement one.


        Besides I am so sick of playing nice with these fascist fuckers.

        • Duke Cox says:

          That last part…×100. 😡

          • gertie97 says:

            Same here, Duke. But we have to win first. Threats to pack the court may not be a winning issue.

            • Duke Cox says:

              I agree. I don't think threats are useful when you are dealing with criminals. Dems need to stop telegraphing their punches, and DO the things they know they have to do.

              The first thing we need to do is take off the gloves. This is bare-knuckled shit. My apologies to any of my friends who object to my blunt language regarding the vermin who calls himself Powerful Pear. Any person who supports the Orange Destruction is a racist and fascist, deserving only enmity and scorn.

  2. Meiner49er says:

    So a self-described "institutionalist" President and the cabinet he picks are really going to push for Court expansion once they win? This feels more like talking-point fantasies for Dems afraid to actually fight McConnell now.

    If you thought four years of Trump was bad, hang on for 20 years of Conservative majority on the Courts. For starters, remember this court will get to rule on any close election calls…which could mean another 4 years of Trump, too. It's do or die.

    • Duke Cox says:

      It is our charge to insure these are not "talking-point fantasies".  It will fall to the Democratic party and its supporters to make it so.

      We do not have time to fuck around here. Every Democrat and every citizen has a moral and patriotic duty to lend a hand. We, the people of the United States of America, are under attack by a domestic enemy.

      That enemy wishes to create a theocracy, if not a monarchy, with the Trump royal family calling ALL the shots. If anyone doubts that, they are not paying attention. 

      You used the phrase, "any close election calls". Therein lies the solution. We must get citizens who would prefer to live in a democracy, to register and vote. 

      We outnumber them…they outmaneuver us. Because they are masters at abusing any system that binds their adversaries to civilized behavior. They play honest people for suckers…EVERY TIME.

      I hope the Democratic party can finally wake up, look around, and take off the gloves. Democracy has taken it on the chin for some time. It is time for democracy to throw a few punches. 

      Civility only works when both parties are dealing in good faith. When your faith is in Prosperity Jesus and Donald Trump, you are being lied to. 

  3. Voyageur says:

    The Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over it’s size.  The number of justices has been changed before.

    . It started with six in 1789, went to seven, then, nine, then 10, then down to seven and finally back to nine.

  4. spaceman65 says:

    Don't threaten to expand the Court, just win the fucking election, take control of the Senate, kill the filibuster, and then expand the court to 13.  


    • RepealAndReplace says:


      Exactly. Making the THREAT only gives Trump and McConnell something else to yack about.

      Talk about COVID, Obamacare, the crappy economy, and the damage to our democracy and national norms.

      Win a majority and THEN let's bring up court expansion.

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