Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer slammed Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, saying the majority leader has “defiled” the Senate over Supreme Court vacancies and “may very well destroy it.”
During remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted President Trump and McConnell, R-Ky., for pushing to fill the vacancy on the high court left by late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 presidential election.
“You would think that after the Republican majority led a historic blockade just four years ago to keep open a vacancy on the Supreme Court because it was an election year, they would have the honor and decency to apply their own rule when the same scenario came around again,” Schumer said Tuesday. “You’d expect this Senate majority to follow their own rule.”
“What’s fair is fair. This is what Leader McConnell said in 2016. The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” he continued. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
He added: “This is the ‘McConnell rule.'”
Schumer went on to slam McConnell, saying, “turns out the ‘McConnell rule’ was nothing more than a ‘McConnell ruse.’”
“Leader McConnell, sadly is headed down the path of breaking his word to the Senate and the American people,” Schumer said. “He has exposed once and for all that a supposed principle of giving the people a voice in selecting the next justice was a farce.”
“Sadly, Leader McConnell has defiled the Senate like no one in this generation, and Leader McConnell may very well destroy it,” he said.
“If Leader McConnell presses forward, the Republican majority will have stolen two Supreme Court seats four years apart, using completely contradictory rash analysis,” he said.
Schumer was referring to the controversy surrounding the confirmation of former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
After the nomination, McConnell and Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing or a vote on Garland’s nomination, at the time citing the imminent 2016 presidential election.
But McConnell has said that there is no comparison in 2016 versus today, saying that in 2020, Republicans control both the White House and the Senate, unlike Democrats in 2016, who controlled only the White House.
According to McConnell’s office, 15 times in U.S. history, a Supreme Court vacancy has arisen in a presidential election year, and the president has moved to nominate someone to the seat. In seven of those 15 times, according to his office, voters put in place an opposite-party Senate.
McConnell’s office said that only two of those seven nominations were confirmed, the last being in 1888.
McConnell’s office also pointed to eight of those 15 times, voters had chosen a Senate majority of the same party as the president, to which seven of those eight nominations were confirmed.
“The only such nominee who was not confirmed faced bipartisan opposition over serious questions of judicial ethics and personal finances,” McConnell Communications Director David Popp said. “Apart from that strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us now.”
“The weight of historical precedent was behind the Senate majority’s decision in 2016 and there is even more overwhelming precedent behind its decision to move forward in 2020,” Popp added.
Meanwhile, President Trump said Tuesday that he'll announce his choice for the Supreme Court this Saturday at the White House— a nominee which McConnell, just hours after the death of Ginsburg on Friday, vowed “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
At this point, the nomination math has been tipped in favor of Trump and Republicans who want to replace Ginsburg with a conservative justice.
Only two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — have said they oppose moving ahead with a nomination ahead of the election.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined potential swing vote Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; and others in backing the Senate in advancing the eventual Trump nominee.
Republicans can lose up to three votes and still be able to confirm a Trump nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence as the tiebreaker.
On Monday, McConnell warned that Democrats will try "every conceivable dirty trick" to prevent a Trump nominee from being confirmed.
Fox News' Tyler Olson contributed to this report.