Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on Republicans, again, to delay the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, saying it wasn’t possible to hold the committee proceedings safely at this time.
During a press conference on Sunday morning, Schumer said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “seems to be jamming through” the judge’s upcoming hearings despite several GOP senators testing positive for coronavirus and McConnell’s decision to reschedule activity on the Senate floor until after October 19.
“It makes no sense,” declared Schumer. “If it’s not safe for the Senate to meet in session, it’s not safe for the hearings to go forward.”
“For Mitch McConnell to go ahead with the hearing endangers the safety not only of senators, but of staff who work diligently on the Hill, and they ought to be delayed. There is no reason on God’s green earth why these shouldn’t be delayed other than an effort to rush a witness through in an inadequate hearing where people can’t even see the witness face to face,” said Schumer. “So we are demanding today, along with millions of Americans and many, many groups, that the hearings be postponed.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has previously said that any senators who wish to participate in the confirmation hearings virtually may do so, a possibility that McConnell has himself expressed as an option to The New York Times.
In a statement on Saturday morning, McConnell praised the judiciary committee for operating “flawlessly” on the virtual-hybrid model with previous business, saying that the format has been successful in the past several months. He also said the format could be executed safely.
Senate floor proceedings will be postponed until October 19th. The @SenJudiciary confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court will convene on October 12th as scheduled by Chairman Graham. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/7ThKZPJBZG
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) October 3, 2020
However, Schumer was dismissive toward the idea at the Sunday morning press conference, saying it “makes no sense” because of the lifetime appointment status of Supreme Court justices.
“A virtual hearing is virtually no hearing at all. You need to be with the witness, and have direct cross-questions and back and forth with them,” he said before declaring that the court nomination could affect people’s health care and access to abortion.
Since the Supreme Court vacancy talks began unexpectedly last month, Senate Democrats, fearing a solid conservative majority on the nation’s high court, have struggled to find a way to prevent the hearings from taking place until after the election.
In the hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Schumer called attention to McConnell’s stance on filling a Supreme Court seat, tweeting: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 18, 2020
Schumer managed to incorrectly summarize the standard McConnell invoked in 2016 — the actual standard being that the Senate shouldn’t hold Supreme Court nominee hearings during an election year when the president is of the opposite party — and later followed up by acknowledging Ginsburg’s death in a tweet, having not done so first.
Before President Donald Trump formally announced Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Schumer also held a joint press conference with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), complete with a solemn black-and-white photo of Ginsburg, at which point he called on Republican senators to respect the late justice’s dying wish by not filling her old seat until a new president takes the oath of office.
Neither attempt has worked out.
In another recent effort, Schumer and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-NY), the ranking member of the judiciary committee, declared that the hearings should be stalled in light of Trump’s positive coronavirus test and the lack of contact tracing information about the president’s infection. Feinstein herself, only days earlier, had attempted to stall the hearings with a letter signed by the Judiciary Committee Democrats, including vice presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), saying that the hearing was cutting it too close to the election.
Graham has vowed to start hearings on October 12, with the goal of having Barrett out of the committee process by October 26.