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 Schumer (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.

Sen. Marco Rubio (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 King (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 Hassan (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.”

The decision by Schumer comes at the start of a tumultuous weeks-long battle over President Trump’s forthcoming nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

Tags Angus King Charles Schumer Donald Trump Election Security intelligence briefing Maggie Hassan Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court
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