WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch does not have to end in a nuclear option showdown, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued Wednesday.
Gorsuch should pass the same 60-vote hurdle that other Supreme Court nominees achieve, Schumer said in a Senate floor speech. If he doesn’t, Trump should nominate someone else.
At least eight Democrats need to vote for Gorsuch to confirm him. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could also invoke the nuclear option, changing Senate rules midstream to end filibusters and allowing Gorsuch to pass through with only 50 votes.
“Those who say at the end of this process there are only two possible results — that the Senate will confirm this nominee or the Republicans will use the nuclear option to change the rules of the Senate — are dead wrong. That is a false choice,” Schumer said.
If the nominee cannot get 60 votes, “then the problem lies not with the Senate, but with the nominee,” he added. “The answer should not be to change the rules of the Senate, but to change the nominee to a mainstream candidate.”
Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the court in 2016, never got a vote. Schumer has been saying that Democrats will not vote for a candidate this time around whom they consider out of the mainstream.
McConnell has declined to say whether he would go nuclear, saying on the Hugh Hewitt radio program that he expected Gorsuch to succeed much as conservative Justice Samuel Alito did.
Schumer, however, suggested that a similar judge would no longer be acceptable, saying the high court under Chief Justice John Roberts has already shifted too far to the right, and too far in favor of big business.
“Judge Gorsuch has consistently favored corporate interests over the rights of working people,” Schumer said. “In one of the few cases he sided with an employee, it was a Republican woman who alleged she was fired for being a conservative.”
He also argued that Gorsuch has shown himself to be hostile to people who use the courts to pursue cases against the powerful, favorable to moneyed interests who want unlimited campaign spending, and opposed to the landmark abortion rights decision in Roe v. Wade.
“It seems that President Trump, who has said he would be for the working man and woman, has not chosen someone who routinely sides with the average American,” Schumer said.
Schumer also argued that it is essential for Democrats to hold Gorsuch to especially high standards because the judge shows an ideological bent that could be problematic during the Trump administration.
“This administration seems to have little regard for the rule of law and is likely to test the Constitution in ways it hasn’t been challenged for decades,” Schumer said.
The New York Democrat pointed to Trump’s executive orders and the president’s decision to fire Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who disagreed with the president’s order targeting Muslims and refugees.
“Many of us have lived through the first few weeks of several administrations of both parties,” Schumer said. “This is not even close to normal.”