Democrats’ Threats To Norms And Institutions Predate Judge Barrett’s Nomination

Regardless Of Their Rhetoric Now, Senate Democrats Have Been Threatening The Independence Of The Supreme Court And The Norms And Traditions Of The Senate Long Before This Year’s Supreme Court Vacancy

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “Now, I believe the Senate majority is on the precipice of making a colossal and historic mistake by rushing this nomination through the Senate only eight days before a national election after 50 million Americans have already voted, the Republican majority is steering the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the country in a very dangerous direction. The damage to Americans’ faith in these institutions could be lasting. So before we go any further, we should shut off the cameras, close the Senate, and talk face-to-face about what this might mean for the country.” (Sen. Schumer, Floor Remarks, 10/23/2020)


Remember, None Of These Radical Threats From Democrats Are New: ‘They Have Nothing To Do With This New Vacancy; Democrats Have Already Been Playing This Game’

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “It has been interesting to watch our colleagues try to recast their disturbing threats as somehow tied to this Supreme Court vacancy. No one should fall for this trick. Democrats have already been threatening these actions for months. Our colleagues now say that ‘nothing’ would be ‘off the table’ if a new Justice were to be confirmed. They want badly for people to believe these are new threats that Democrats would take off the table if Republicans would just help them sink President Trump’s nominee.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 9/22/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “These threats are not new. They have nothing to do with this new vacancy. Democrats have already been playing this game for more than a year and a half. It was more than a year ago that several Senate Democrats threatened the Supreme Court in a written brief. They said ‘the Court is not well [and] perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured.’ It was more than a year ago that Democrats competing for their party’s presidential nomination made Court-packing a central element in their platforms. It was more than six months ago that the Democratic Leader appeared outside the Court and threatened specific Justices if they did not rule his way.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 9/22/2020)
  • SEN. McCONNELL: “These threats are not new. They have nothing really to do with this vacancy…. There is no degree to which rewarding these threats would buy the nation any relief from this. There is no ‘deal’ that would stop their dangerous tactics. Giving in to political blackmail would not do a thing to secure our institutions. You do not put a stop to irresponsible hostage-taking by making hostage-taking a winning strategy.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 9/22/2020)


In Fact, Democrats Have Been Threatening The Supreme Court For Some Time…

SENS. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), and KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’” (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York, Brief Of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, And Kirsten Gillibrand As Amici Curiae In Support Of Respondents, 8/12/2019)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” (“Roberts Rebukes Schumer For Saying Justices Will ‘Pay The Price’ For A Vote Against Abortion Rights,” The Washington Post, 3/04/2020)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” (Congressional Record, S.717, 1/30/2020)

  • WARREN: “I’m open. … Actually, I mean, we could. Because the point is-- Look, there are a lot of different ways to do it. The number of people on the Supreme Court is not constitutionally constricted. But it’s one of the things that we certainly could talk about.” (The New York Times, Accessed 9/13/2019)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): “We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court… We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.” (“2020 Dems Warm To Expanding Supreme Court,” Politico, 3/18/2020)

“Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said she has been ‘talking with people who have different ideas about what we can do — including adding to the court, including having certain circuit court judges cycle in and other ideas’ like term limits. ‘I’m open to those kinds of suggestions,’ she said.” (“Democrats Warn GOP: Don’t Fill A Supreme Court Vacancy In 2020 Or We’ll Retaliate,” NBC News, 8/3/2020)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): “I’m taking nothing off the table.” (The Washington Post, Accessed 9/18/19)


… And Have Been Noisily Discussing Nuking The Filibuster Once And For All

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): “I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal.” (CNN, 9/04/2019)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCAHR (D-MN): “[I] would be willing to advocate for getting rid of the legislative filibuster if legislation is blocked.” (“Are 2020 Democratic Candidates Ready To Scrap The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change?,” Vox, 2/19/2020)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): “I’ve supported filibuster reform for a long time…. If the Republicans think that they are going to be able to hold up the actions that need to be taken in this country by using the filibuster then they’re wrong. We’re going to have to fight them.” (“Filibuster Reform Gains Steam With Democrats,” The Hill, 6/29/2020)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): “I think we should do away with the filibuster… We are too dysfunctional….” (Cleveland.com, 11/8/2019)

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): “I’m very open to it. Look, I was governor of a state with two legislatures and everything is operated by simple majority. It works fine.” (“Filibuster Reform Gains Steam With Democrats,” The Hill, 6/29/2020)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): “I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration’s initiatives blocked at every turn… I am gonna try really hard to find a path forward that doesn’t require removing what’s left of the structural guardrails, but if there’s a Biden administration, it will be inheriting a mess, at home and abroad. It requires urgent and effective action.” (“The Biden Whisperer In The Senate,” Politico, 6/23/2020)


FLASHBACK: Democrats’ Agitation Against The Filibuster Goes Back At Least A Decade

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), 2011: “At no time did our Founders envision that the Senate would require a supermajority to pass legislation…. Our citizens expect more. The Senate must be able to respond to the major challenges of our time … That is why Sens. Tom Udall, Tom Harkin and I, among others, fought to change the Senate rules in January.” (Sen. Merkley, Op-Ed, “Why ‘Supermajority’ No Longer Works In The Senate,” The Washington Post, 11/04/2011)

SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM), 2011: “The Senate is broken…. Last year the Senate Rules Committee took a hard look at how our rules have become so abused and how this Chamber no longer functions as our Founders intended. I applaud Chairman Schumer and his excellent staff for devoting so much time to this important issue.” (Sen. Udall, Congressional Record, S.34, 1/05/2011)

MERKLEY, 2013: “The filibuster, once used only on issues of personal principle, is now used regularly as an instrument of partisan politics…. It hurts our ability to take on the big challenges we face as Americans. And we need to fix it….” (“Udall, Merkley And Harkin Unveil Filibuster-Reform Resolution,” The Hill, 1/04/13)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), 2013: “The age-old rules of the Senate are being used to paralyze us. And the public is asking -- is begging us to act…. Well, it’s a new world. People demand action. The old rules need to be modified. And that’s what we have done today.” (Sen. Schumer, Press Conference, 11/21/2013)

2016: “The expected incoming Democratic leader of the Senate, Charles Schumer of New York, has carefully said nothing about further changes. But he said in September, ‘A progressive majority on the Supreme Court is an imperative, and if I become majority leader, I will make it happen. I will make it happen.’” (“Will Democrats Nuke the Filibuster?,” The New Republic, 10/31/2016)

MERKLEY, 2016: “If there’s deep abuse, we’re going to have to consider rules changes. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.” (“Will Democrats Nuke the Filibuster?,” The New Republic, 10/31/2016)



Related Issues: History, Judicial Nominations, Senate Democrats, Supreme Court