The speech amounted to a challenge to Republicans, who may now have to decide whether to trigger the “nuclear option” and change the chamber’s rules to curtail the power of the filibuster.
Mr. Schumer, who four years ago himself voted to trigger the nuclear option on all other nominees, told Republicans not to follow his lead.
“The answer isn’t to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee,” the New York Democrat said Thursday.
Just last year, when Democrats thought they’d win the White House and the Senate, their outgoing floor leader Sen. Harry Reid said they themselves would trigger the nuclear option to get Hillary Clinton’s nominee through.
“It takes only a simple majority anymore,” Mr. Reid, still a senator at the time, told Talking Points Memo, predicting the looming fight. “I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again.”
The filibuster declaration came even as the hearings for Judge Gorsuch were still going on, with the American Bar Association telling senators the judge had received the highest rating possible for a nominee.
The Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on Judge Gorsuch on April 3, and then the full Senate will vote before lawmakers break for Easter.
Republicans have the votes to push the judge through committee, but only have 52 members, and would need Democrats’ help to overcome a filibuster — which takes 60 votes — on the chamber floor.
Mr. Schumer’s declaration Thursday was not unexpected, but it does send a signal to other Democrats that they are expected to line up in opposition.
Just before Mr. Schumer, Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat facing re-election in 2018, announced his opposition.
“I have serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy,” Mr. Casey said.
He said two of Judge Gorsuch’s rulings stood out.
In one of those cases the judge ruled against a disabled child’s demand that the public school system pay for special education. Judge Gorsuch said he was following his circuit court’s precedent, but the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision Wednesday rejected the legal test Judge Gorsuch and a number of other courts had used.
In the other case, the judge ruled the law allowed a trucking company to fire a driver who abandoned his load after fearing he was freezing to death waiting in his stuck rig.
Judge Gorsuch said in that ruling he was following the law, though the outcome was troubling. He said, though, that he had to enforce the law as written, and said it was up to lawmakers to rewrite it.
Mr. Schumer also cited those cases and others, saying that given Judge Gorsuch’s “lack of candor” in answering questions during two days of hearings this week, all senators have to go by is the judge’s record.
“We do not want judges with ice water in their veins,” he said.
Mr. Schumer has long been the leading proponent of evaluating judges not by their legal qualifications but by how he sees them tilting the courts, with a goal of shifting the federal judiciary to the left.
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