Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the US Senate, gave a speech last night opposing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court – warning that “just about every American will be hurt” by her conservative views.
However, despite his vow he will “strongly, strongly, strongly” oppose her nomination, Mr Schumer and his party currently have little hope of stopping her nomination, with only two Republicans saying they will oppose voting on a nominee before the 3 November election.
In his speech, Mr Schumer ran through a list of areas where he said Ms Barrett would roll back protections that guaranteed basic rights, safety, and a better standard of living.
“Judge Barrett herself strongly criticised the ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “She stated that if justices read the law the way she does, they would have to invalidate the healthcare law that protects Americans.
“Her record also makes clear, if she’s confirmed, that women’s reproductive freedom will be at risk, Roe v Wade itself will be at risk. If she’s on the court I believe it will either be eliminated or so greatly constricted that in effect it’s eliminated.
“Labour rights will be eliminated. Judge Barrett and those from the Federalist Society want to make America a right-to-work state, which would get rid of labour unions.
“Our environmental rights would be greatly hurt with Judge Barrett on the court. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and all efforts to stop global warming would be hurt.
“LGBTQ rights would be hurt. This hit home personally to me, because at our Jewish new year’s eve dinner, our Rosh Hashana dinner, we heard that Justice Ginsburg had died, my daughter who was sitting next to us whispered to her wife, ‘Will our right to marry be constrained under this new court?’”
“Just about every American will be hurt by Judge Barrett’s views on the issues.”
Mr Schumer’s broadside against Mr Trump’s the conservative nominee recalls another famous speech from a Democrat opposing a Republican president’s Supreme Court pick. In 1987, Ted Kennedy stood up against Robert Bork, nominated by Ronald Reagan, whom he accused of having held “neanderthal” views on civil rights described as a threat to the modern American way of life.
“Robert Bork's America,” declared Mr Kennedy, “is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.
“America is a better and freer nation than Robert Bork thinks. Yet in the current delicate balance of the Supreme Court, his rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be.”
After his hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee – chaired by none other than Joe Biden – Mr Bork’s nomination was ultimately defeated in the Senate, where a handful of Republicans joined the bulk of the Democratic majority in voting it down 58-42.
So far, the Coney Barrett nomination shows no sign of being endangered by the judge’s views, which seem to align well enough with the Senate’s Republican majority. But as Mr Schumer also alluded to in his speech, polling indicates that the idea of moving forward to confirmation this close to the election is unpopular, and that Republicans my be hurt by the perception of hypocrisy in going ahead with a nomination after refusing to allow one in the last year of president Obama’s term.
While Mr Schumer has little prospect of defeating the nomination on the Senate floor unless he can persuade several Republicans to effectively turn on the president in advance of his possible re-election, his speech yesterday indicates he will make the case that his GOP counterparts are resorting to hypocrisy in order to nominate an extreme new justice out of step with the electorate.
“Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have stolen two judges from the American people: Merrick Garland, and now rushing this nomination through.
“Judge Ginsburg had a dying wish: that the next president choose. Justice Ginsburg must be turning over in her grave up in heaven to see that the person they chose seems to be intent on undoing all the things that Ginsburg did. I will strongly, strongly, strongly oppose this nomination.”