New York Sen. Charles Schumer fired back at Republicans citing a 2007 speech he gave to block all George W. Bush Supreme Court nominees to justify efforts to block President Barack Obama from replacing late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
As The Daily Caller News Foundation first reported Sunday, Schumer’s recent denunciations of Republican obstructionism on the Supreme Court clash with a 2007 speech he gave calling for Democrats to block any future George W. Bush nominations. But now, Schumer says it’s dishonest to use the speech to justify current Republican plans regarding the Supreme Court.
“Over the last couple of days, some Republicans, embarrassed by their partisan overreach in attempting to prevent the President from nominating a Supreme Court justice, have tried to use a 2007 speech I gave to justify their current obstruction,” Schumer wrote Tuesday for the website Medium. “Sadly for them, even a quick perusal of the speech shows it provides no cover and that Leader McConnell is comparing apples to oranges.”
“What I said in the speech given in 2007 is simple: Democrats, after a hearing, should entertain voting no if the nominee is out of the mainstream and tries to cover that fact up,” he continued. “There was no hint anywhere in the speech that there shouldn’t be hearings or a vote. Only that if after hearings and a vote, Democrats determined that the nominee was out of the mainstream and trying to hide it, they should have no qualms about voting no.
But Schumer’s explanation doesn’t appear to line up with his remarks at the time. While it is certainly true that he never calls for avoiding hearings, as some Republicans have suggested, it is absolutely the case that he proposed categorically rejecting any new nominees Bush put forward.
In his speech to the American Constitution Society, Schumer was reflecting on his experience with the confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, whose elevation heralded a conservative shift by the Supreme Court. After claiming Democrats were “hoodwinked” by Alito and Roberts at their confirmation hearings, Schumer lays out his proposals for how Democrats should act going forward.
“For the rest of this President’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this: We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,” Schumer said. “The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito. Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.”Despite his piece on Medium, it is clear Schumer was not calling for Democrats to “entertain” voting against a Bush nominee. He was saying Democrats should absolutely vote down any nominee unless unclear “exceptional circumstances” dictated otherwise.
The full text of Schumer’s speech further belies his claim that Democrats would only have had to decide against a nominee after a full hearing. Much of Schumer’s speech consists of him arguing that confirmation hearings are inherently unreliable and not a good way to vet a candidate for the Supreme Court.
“Hearings produce a lot of sound and fury, often signifying nothing,” he said in 2007. “It is too easy to evade a question; it is too easy to refuse to answer; it is too easy to be coached; and it is too easy to offer an easy platitude rather than a concrete opinion.”
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