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Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up

Senate Democrats are limiting the ability to hold committee hearings in retaliation for Republicans' decision to try to fill a Supreme Court seat in the middle of an election year, the first action in what is likely to be an increasingly combative battle over procedure in the Senate.

A Democratic aide confirmed that Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade A Biden stumble on China? MORE (D-N.Y.) had invoked the so-called two hour rule, which can be used to limit the ability to hold committee hearings after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours. 

The ability to hold committee hearings is routinely granted with little fanfare on the Senate floor. The Senate came in at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, meaning Democratic cooperation was needed for committees to meet after noon.

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Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be MORE (R-Fla.) tried to get an exception on Tuesday afternoon for the Senate Intelligence Committee to be able to meet at 2:30 p.m. with the director of national counterintelligence, where they were expected to discuss election security. 

But Schumer also objected to that.

“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

The tactic appeared to catch some senators off guard. Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine Senate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Biden CIA pick pledges to confront China if confirmed, speak 'truth to power' MORE (I-Maine) was heading toward the Senate Intelligence Committee meeting before a staffer noted it had been canceled for Tuesday.

Laura Epstein, a spokeswoman for Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanRosen to lead Senate Democrats' efforts to support female candidates Pro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Senate Democrats call on GAO to review child care access barriers for disabled parents, kids MORE (D-N.H.), who had been scheduled to hold a subcommittee hearing, added that Hassan “was not aware of the Senate Minority Leader’s plans to block committee hearings this afternoon and is extremely frustrated that today’s hearing on defending state and local entities from cyber threats amid COVID-19 will have to be rescheduled.”

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The decision by Schumer comes at the start of a tumultuous weeks-long battle over President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE’s forthcoming nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgBill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE’s Supreme Court seat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE (R-Ky.) appears to have locked in support within his caucus to move a nominee this year, though he hasn’t said if he will force a vote before the Nov. 3 election.

Maggie Miller contributed. Updated at 3:22 p.m.