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'Colossal Failure of Leadership,' Warn Progressives, If Schumer Can't Unify Democrats to Block Trump Supreme Court Nominee

Senate Minority Leader "is fully on the hook for ensuring that not a single Senate Democrat breaks ranks and hands the Supreme Court to Trump."

Progressives are pressuring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to rally Democrats to block a vote on a new Supreme Court justice before the November midterms. (Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr/cc)

Progressive lawmakers and activists are urging Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats to resist President Donald Trump's forthcoming nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, after siding with the rest of the high court's right-wing justices on labor unionsreproductive rights, the Trump administration's travel ban, and GOP gerrymandering.

"Failing to keep all Senate Democrats united would be a colossal failure of leadership that helps Republicans make abortion illegal, destroy our civil rights, shred the social safety net, poison the planet, and undermine our democracy."
—Heidi Hess, CREDO Action

In an email to supporters on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that the 5-4 Muslim ban and union votes "were only possible because of the unprecedented actions of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to deny President Obama's nominee a vote ahead of the 2016 elections."

By forcing a delay in filling the seat, left vacant following Antonin Scalia's death, McConnell enabled Trump to nominate right-winger Neil Gorsuch—who was only confirmed after Republicans rewrote the Senate's rules to reduce the number of votes needed from 60 to a simple majority.

Now, Sanders and others are calling on Senate Democrats to take a page out of the Republican playbook and block whoever Trump nominates until after the November midterm elections.

"By now we know that is not what we will get from Donald Trump's nominee," Sanders said. "And I believe the American people have a right to make their voices heard about that at the ballot box in November."

"I believe most Americans want a Supreme Court that will stand up for civil liberties, constitutional rights, workers' rights, environmental rights and women's rights," he concluded. "The American people deserve a Supreme Court justice who respects the rights of workers instead of bowing down to big business... a Supreme Court that will move us back in the direction of one person, one vote, and stop our slide into an oligarchy, in which the political life in this country is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaire families."

"The American people deserve a Supreme Court justice who respects the rights of workers instead of bowing down to big business... a Supreme Court that will move us back in the direction of one person, one vote, and stop our slide into an oligarchy, in which the political life in this country is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaire families."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

While the hashtag #MidtermsBeforeSCOTUS started gaining steam on Twitter following Kennedy's annoucement, as Common Dreams reported, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (Wis.), and Chris Murphy (Conn.) all weighed in, declaring that McConnell should follow the precedent he established when he refused to hold a vote for Obama nominee Merrick Garland.

Although Schumer said Wednesday that it would be the "height of hypocrisy" for the Senate to vote on a candidate before the midterms, unlike progressive leaders such as Sanders and Warren, who are known for standing up to Trump and Republicans in Congress, Schumer has a well documented history of a caving to both.

"Keeping the Democratic caucus united in blocking Trump's extremism from being enshrined on the Supreme Court for a generation is a crucial test of Sen. Chuck Schumer's ability to effectively lead Senate Democrats," Heidi Hess, co-director of the activist network CREDO Action, said Thursday.

"Failing to keep all Senate Democrats united would be a colossal failure of leadership that helps Republicans make abortion illegal, destroy our civil rights, shred the social safety net, poison the planet, and undermine our democracy," Hess warned. "Sen. Schumer is fully on the hook for ensuring that not a single Senate Democrat breaks ranks and hands the Supreme Court to Trump."

While progressives are keeping pressure on Schumer and Senate Democrats to block a vote, the powerful right-wing political groups bankrolled by the billionaire Koch Brothers—who are megadonors to Republican politicians—are already plotting to spend millions to support Trump's pick for the court, which is expected to be one of 25 candidates put forth by the White House in November. McConnell, for his part, said he plans to hold a Senate hearing and vote in the fall.

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