WASHINGTON ― Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) laid out the stakes for the 2020 elections Thursday, saying that it’s imperative Democrats focus on winning back more than just the presidency and making sure that Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is no longer the majority leader.
“If McConnell stays as leader, even if we have a Democratic president, he will not put another nominee on the Supreme Court,” Schumer told a small group of reporters. “He will prevent a Democratic president from getting anything done. All the things we want to do. And it will be a disaster.”
McConnell, of course, famously blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from even getting a hearing in the Senate in the final year of his presidency. Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March 2016, after conservative justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Although Obama still had nearly a year left in office, McConnell refused to consider Garland and give him a vote ― saying it should be left to the next president to fill the spot.
But in June, McConnell said that if Trump loses, he would be willing to consider a new Supreme Court nominee in 2021.
“Obviously, if you have a vacancy in the first year of a term of a president, you’re not going to fail to fill the vacancy for a very lengthy period of time no matter what political opposition is,” McConnell said. “I can’t imagine any scenario under which the early part of a president’s term you would not have a vote. That doesn’t mean the person would necessarily be confirmed.”
He did not specify whether he would commit to giving a fair process to a nominee beyond the first year.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has taken a bit of heat from progressive activists this cycle for intervening in competitive primaries.
Despite the presence of other candidates in the Democratic primary, the DSCC has backed state House Speaker Sara Gideon in Maine, businesswoman Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and veteran M.J. Hegar in Texas, among other candidates. These interventions have sparked an outcry from progressive groups, who claim the party is trying to hijack what should be open contests.
Schumer insisted that the DSCC has intervened in the past, and that he felt just fine about doing so.
“In 2018, we had mostly incumbents. In 2016, we made a load of endorsements,” he said. And there’s two words: to win. ... So we try and look at the best candidate. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong but I think would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t do that give us, given the emergency times.”
Kevin Robillard contributed reporting.
Correction: This article originally misstated the date that Obama nominated Garland.