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Schumer: American rights are threatened

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responds to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring, saying the Republicans should not consider a new Justice during an election year.

Posted: Jun 28, 2018 12:31 PM
Updated: Jun 28, 2018 1:01 PM

Democrats on Wednesday evoked Republicans' refusal to vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee in 2016 in response to Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement ahead of midterm elections next fall.

New York Sen. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, called choosing to confirm a nominee before the elections in November "the absolute height of hypocrisy."

Earlier Wednesday, Kennedy said he would step down from his position on the nation's highest court effective July 31.

The announcement positions President Donald Trump to nominate Kennedy's successor. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the pick would be voted on ahead of midterm elections, despite the GOP's citing of the approaching presidential election as justification for blocking Garland's nomination two years ago.

"We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

With Democrats hoping to reclaim the majority in the Senate after November, Democratic lawmakers pushed back against McConnell's call for a swift confirmation.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California called on the Senate to "follow the McConnell Standard" in a tweet.

"4 months away from an election, there should be no consideration of a Supreme Court nominee until the American people have a say. Leader McConnell set that standard when he denied Judge Garland a hearing for nearly a year, and the Senate should follow the McConnell Standard now," she wrote on Twitter.

"Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016, not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year," Schumer said Wednesday.

"Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the President's nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now, as leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then. Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy," the Senate minority leader later added.

After thanking Kennedy for his service on the Supreme Court, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a statement: "Senator McConnell set the new standard by giving the American people their say in the upcoming election before Court vacancies are filled. With so much at stake for the people of our country, the US Senate must be consistent and consider the President's nominee once the new Congress is seated in January."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said he, too, agreed the confirmation vote should be stalled until after the new Congress is elected.

"A confirmation of this historic magnitude ... the American people should have a voice," he said.

Fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy called McConnell's call to move forward on a vote "absolute hypocrisy."

"Well, we are four months out from an election that determines control of the Senate. It's just absolutely hypocrisy for the majority leader to move forward on a vote now when he wasn't willing to move it forward on a vote ahead of the 2016 election," Murphy said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, declined to say whether he would vote against any Trump nominee before the midterm elections, but "in terms of giving the American people a chance to weigh in, if the Republicans were going to be consistent, they would have to follow the McConnell rule," Whitehouse said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who is up for re-election as a Democrat in a state that voted for Trump, thanked Kennedy for his service.

"I take my constitutional duty to vet all nominees very seriously," he added.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another red-state Democrat up for re-election, hinted at voting on a potential nominee ahead of the midterm elections -- breaking with her Democratic colleagues.

"I was taught that two wrongs don't make a right," she said in a statement. "All senators need to have time to meet and evaluate the body of work of any nominee. Let's start there."

However, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, disregarded his Democratic colleagues' calls to stall the nomination and said there's "plenty of precedent" to confirm a nominee in a midterm election year. Grassley noted Justice Elena Kagan's confirmation in 2010, but said he didn't know when he would have hearings.

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