WASHINGTON -- After several Democrats predicted Republicans will suffer at the polls for refusing to consider anyone President Barack Obama nominates for the Supreme Court, the man who likely stands to benefit most from that backlash predicted Tuesday that the GOP would back down.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is the heir apparent to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and if Democrats can flip four or five Republican Senate seats in this year's election -- the GOP currently holds 54 seats -- Schumer would be in charge of the Senate.
In a statement, Schumer declared Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the rest of the GOP would reconsider the pledge to not even consider an Obama-nominated replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday.
"When the hard right doesn't get its way, their immediate reaction is, ‘shut it down’ -- and the Republican leadership marches in lockstep. They did it in 2013 when they tried to shut down the government, and they're doing it today with their attempt to shut down the Supreme Court," Schumer said.
Scalia's death doesn't exactly shut down the court, but it leaves the potential for it to be split 4-4 on certain contentious cases. The prospect of such deadlocks, made possible by McConnell's refusal to weigh a replacement, will impact the public just like the shutdown, Schumer said.
"Just as in 2013, when there was a huge public outcry and the Republican leadership had to back off, the same will happen now -- and they will have to back off this extreme, partisan stance," Schumer said.
A McConnell spokesman declined to answer Schumer. However, McConnell's office has suggested Schumer is a hypocrite by pointing reporters to remarks the New York senator made in 2007, when he told the American Constitution Society that Democrats should not confirm any High Court nominees, except in extraordinary circumstances, for the rest of President George W. Bush's term and beyond.
Republicans are suggesting that Schumer argued to stop Bush's nominees for an entire year and a half, not just a year, as McConnell says he'll do to Obama's nominees.
But Schumer countered earlier Tuesday that his position was nothing like McConnell's, since Schumer believed the Senate would still hold hearings and votes.
He said his point was that Democrats should reverse their usual presumption that nominees were not ideologues, since in Democrats' eyes both Justices Sam Alito and John Roberts disguised their ideological nature to win confirmation. Lacking proof to the contrary, Schumer said, Democrats should vote against confirming a hypothetical nominee.
And regardless of how anyone votes, the Senate should perform it duties, Schumer said.
"The wisdom of the Founding Fathers dictates that we should go through a full vetting and confirmation process so that we and the nation can determine whether these candidates are out of the mainstream even in this ideological era," Schumer said in a post on Medium. "Republicans are attempting to shirk their duty in a way that would be simply unprecedented in our nation’s history."
A spokesman for Reid echoed Schumer's prediction, pointing to news that one Republican, Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.), was already backing away from McConnell's stance.
"The next step in this process will be for Senator McConnell to back down and give President Obama’s nominee a hearing and a floor vote. That’s a simple reality," said Adam Jentelson in an email with the subject line: "McConnell will back down."