Schumer Compares Republicans Moving To Block SCOTUS Nominee To Government Shutdown

Toni Ann Booras Contributor
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New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer has compared Senate Republicans’ attempt to block a potential Supreme Court nominee to Republican action during the 2013 government shutdown.

“When the hard right doesn’t get its way, their immediate reaction is to shut it down,” Schumer said in a press call Wednesday.

Schumer referred to Republican action during the shutdown, when congressional Republicans and Democrats reached an impasse over the budget after disputes over Obamacare in October 2013 it shut down the government for 16 days. Congressional Republicans were largely blamed for the shutdown.

“That’s what happened in 2013 when the Republican leadership tried to shut down the government,” he said. “They’re doing it today with their attempts to shut down the Supreme Court. But just as in 2013 when there was a huge public outcry and Sen. McConnell had to back off, the same will happen now. Sen. McConnell will have to back off.”

Connecticut Democratic Sen. [crscore]Richard Blumenthal[/crscore] agreed with Schumer’s assessment, saying Senate Republicans are “dragging the court into the morass of partisan politics and gridlock.”

“As I go around the state of Connecticut, what I find is that the outrage and outcry against shutting down the Supreme Court in effect is motivated by all the feelings that were caused by shutting down the government,” said Blumenthal.

A seat on the Supreme Court is now vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia Saturday. Several Senate Republicans have said the next president should make the nomination and asserted they will move to block any nominee Obama puts forward.

Senators are split along largely partisan lines on whether the current president should nominate the next justice. Of the 54 Republican senators, 29 have said President Obama should not nominate a successor; on the other hand, 44 of the 46 Democratic senators have said the president should nominate a successor, according to the New York Times.

“It has been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice,” said presidential candidate [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] during the Feb. 13 GOP debate in South Carolina.

In fact, as moderator John Dickinson pointed out, Justice Anthony Kennedy was actually confirmed by the Senate in Ronald Reagan’s final year as president, though he was appointed the previous year.

An analysis by SCOTUSBlog revealed there were no instances of the president “failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election” since at least 1900. The article lists several instances of presidents nominating potential justices in presidential election years, including President Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination and the Senate’s confirmation of Frank Murphy in 1940, the year he was up for reelection.

“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now,” President Obama said at a press conference yesterday.

“There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years,” Obama said. “That’s not in the constitutional text.”

Senate Majority Leader [crscore]Mitch McConnell[/crscore] issued a statement on filling the vacancy shortly after Scalia’s death was announced on Saturday.

“The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in the statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who originally agreed with McConnell and asserted the next president should pick the nominee, has since said he will “wait until the nominee is made” before making a decision.

Schumer and Blumenthal said they still expect senators to scrutinize and vet each potential nominee; they are simply asking for an up-or-down vote.

“We’re asking for a hearing and a vote,” said Schumer. “We’re not asking for Congress to be a rubber stamp.”

Utah Republican Sen. [crscore]Orrin Hatch[/crscore] spoke out against blocking judicial nominations on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we should filibuster Supreme Court nominees or any judicial nominees,” Hatch told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.