August 22, 2018

Senator Chuck Schumer took to the floor of the Senate today to decry the notion that Brett Kavanaugh might ever become a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. Having done his due diligence, Schumer met with the nominee at length, and was dismayed to find he would not and could not answer many of the questions the Senator had for him.

Schumer focused first on the wholly inadequate, and frankly, terrifying answers he gave (or would not give) regarding abortion rights for women. This is not getting nearly enough play, either in the press or in the Senators' offices, if their silent phone lines are any indication. It was a welcome surprise, then, to hear such a strong advocacy and focus from Schumer on this issue.

He refused to say if he believed Roe was correctly decided. He refused to say if he believed Casey was correctly decided. He could not name for me a restriction on a woman’s right to choose that he would consider an undue burden. Even when I asked him would a ban on an abortion after four to six weeks be an undue burden? He couldn’t answer that....

His silence, especially given his recent praise of dissents in both Roe and Casey, in 2016 and 2017 he praised Judge Rehnquist and Judge Scalia’s view that Casey and Roe were decided wrongly. What is anyone supposed to reasonably believe? Given that President Trump said he will only choose people who will repeal Roe and declare ACA unconstitutional. Given that he has praised the dissents in Roe and Casey, the fact that he was unwilling to refute any of that, in anyway, to even say that a limit on abortion after four weeks was an undue burden, should raise real questions for any American who believes in choice; who believes in the constitutionality of the government helping with health care, including pre-existing conditions.

His discussion of abortion rights (and the ACA) took up fully the first one-third of his speech today. Schumer even pressed Kavanaugh on what constituted undue burden on a pregnant woman — was an abortion warranted under any circumstance at all? — rather than simply asking him if Roe was settled law. This is the kind of questioning every nominee for the Supreme Court should expect to face, and be ready to answer. Of course, I would like questions to be even more, shall we say, pointed. "How long do you think it is (fair/reasonable/Christ-like) to force a woman to carry a dead fetus inside of her before it becomes an undue burden, Judge Kavanaugh?" But I will settle for this for now.

Schumer spent the rest of his speech outlining the reasons confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would essentially end our democracy as we know it, given the Kavanaugh's alarmingly broad views on executive authority. The judge holds that the president is essentially above the law, and cannot be questioned or subpoenaed, even in criminal matters having to do with national security. Senator Schumer sees this as handing over the republic to the whims and interests of one person. Kavanaugh is completely okay with this.

At this moment in our nation’s history, the Senate should not confirm a man to the bench who believes that presidents are virtually beyond accountability, even in criminal cases. A man who believes that presidents are virtually above the law, and only Congress can check a president’s power. Over the past year, despite numerous abuses of presidential authority, despite numerous encroachments on the separation of powers, despite numerous attacks on the rule of law, this Republican Congress has done almost nothing to check this president. If Congress can be captured by one party’s deference to the president, we cannot allow the Supreme Court to be captured as well.

Given Trump's new official title of "Unindicted Co-Conspirator," Schumer is right to be alarmed. He's also right that the Democrats hold exactly zero cards in the matter of whether a hearing is held. He sure indicated he's willing to put up a fight, though, and if he and the other Democrats know what is good for them and the rest of us, they will only get louder and more forceful from here.

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