Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Schumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian MORE (N.Y.) is under pressure from the left to whip Democrats hard to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
Liberal activist groups are urging their supporters to attend a town hall meeting with Schumer in Brooklyn on Monday night and press him to commit to squeeze red-state Democrats who might feel pressure to back Trump’s pick.
“We expect his constituents to be asking him really directly if he is going to commit to whipping the caucus and keeping Democratic voters together and in line in opposing Trump’s extreme Supreme Court nominee,” said Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director at Indivisible Project, a liberal advocacy group dedicated to defeating the Trump agenda and electing progressive leaders.
“We’ll be actively encouraging our members over social media tonight to go to that event and encourage Schumer to whip the caucus for this vote,” said Neil Sroka, communications director at Democracy for America, another liberal advocacy group.
“If you care about the constitutionally protected right for women to choose what happens with their own bodies, there’s zero reason for why you should be voting for Donald Trump’s nominee,” Sroka said.
Schumer in an op-ed in The New York Times on Monday called the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as the “most important vacancy on the Supreme Court in our lifetimes.”
He also cast it as determining the future of Roe v. Wade.
“Perhaps the most consequential issues at stake in this Supreme Court vacancy are affordable health care and a woman’s freedom to make the most sensitive medical decisions about her body,” Schumer wrote. “The views of President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE’s next court nominee on these issues could well determine whether the Senate approves or rejects them.”
Schumer did not put direct pressure on his fellow Democrats to toe a line on the nominee in his op-ed. Instead, he cast it as the responsibility of a “bipartisan majority” that believes in abortion rights and protections for those with pre-existing health conditions to ensure the next justice toes the line on those issues.
The wording puts GOP Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (Maine) on the hot seat. The two senators back abortion rights and have been at the forefront of speculation about whether Trump can push through his pick in a Senate with a 50-49 GOP majority, given Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE’s (R-Ariz.) absence for health issues.
The best way to defend abortion rights, Schumer wrote, is “for a bipartisan majority in the Senate to lock arms and reject a Supreme Court nominee who would overturn them.”
The Supreme Court vacancy puts Schumer in a difficult position.
He wants to prevent Trump from winning a conservative majority that could last decades on the court and that would be a huge disappointment to the Democratic base.
He also wants to protect Democratic incumbent senators, many of whom are running for reelection in states won by Trump in the presidential race.
It’s not Schumer’s style to twist arms in the Democratic caucus. He usually prefers to argue for his favored position and let fellow Democratic senators make up their own minds on an important issue.
“He knows I'm going to do what I got to do for West Virginia. I'll do what's best for West Virginia,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinKlobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill MORE (D-W.Va.), one of the Democratic senators facing a difficult decision on Trump’s next nominee.
He said that Schumer hasn’t tried to wrangle him one way or the other on the nominee, who has yet to be named.
Along with Manchin, Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampVirginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters Washington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (Ind.) voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee to the high court. All three face reelection in states where Trump is popular.
If all three lose, any Democratic hopes of winning back the Senate are almost certainly lost.
Liberal groups worried about the court pick, however, are thinking more about that battle right now than who will win the North Dakota Senate seat in November.
“It really is essential that senators stick together and ultimately that is Sen. Schumer’s responsibility as minority leader to whip the caucus and to apply that pressure and his constituents do expect him to do that,” said Beavers.
There is already disappointment on the left that Democrats didn’t put up a tougher fight this year against Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE, Trump’s choice to head the State Department, and Gina Haspel, his pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.
Five Democrats and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAmazon, Facebook, other large firms would pay more under proposed minimum tax, Warren's office says Senators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures Energy information chief blames market for high fuel prices MORE (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, voted for Pompeo, while six Democrats voted for Haspel.
On the court pick, Schumer is asking his members to not take a position on the court vacancy until they know the nominee and that person’s position on Roe v. Wade and the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
In his op-ed, he pointed to abortion rights and the future of ObamaCare as the two most important issues in the confirmation debate.
There have been signs that centrist Democrats will back the rest of the party in demanding a nominee who they’d see as backing abortion rights.
Manchin on Friday told a West Virginia radio station that Trump should not nominate someone openly hostile to Roe v. Wade.
“I think he needs to get a jurist basically looking at the law. The Roe. V. Wade has been the law for 40-some years,” said Manchin, who urged Trump to pick a “centrist.”
Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a group that advocates for the judiciary to embody progressive values, praised Schumer’s op-ed.
“Based on what we’ve heard and been told, Schumer is making it very clear this is a priority and that the future of the court and the country is at stake. He’s been very clear from the outset,” she said.
“If you’re a senator who cares about health care, reproductive rights, workers’ rights and you voted for Neil Gorsuch, you now see the only option is to vote against anyone on Donald Trump’s short list,” she added.