Schumer faces heavy pressure from left on Supreme Court

Schumer faces heavy pressure from left on Supreme Court
© Getty Images

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate 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 MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Collins says negotiators are 'just about finished' with infrastructure bill 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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 ManchinSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget 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 HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin 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 PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions 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 KingManchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights New Senate bill would hurt charities and those they serve Overnight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers 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.