The Corner

Politics & Policy

Schumer: Ignore My 2007 Speech on Judges

As many conservatives have noted in recent days, Senator Chuck Schumer said in 2007 that Senate Democrats should do what they could to keep President George W. Bush from confirming any more conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Now he’s explaining that today’s situation is completely unlike that one (h/t Susan Ferrechio).

The first step: mischaracterizing what he said. Here’s his retrospective spin: “What I said in the speech given in 2007 is simple: Democrats, after a hearing, should entertain voting no if the nominee is out of the mainstream and tries to cover that fact up.” Here’s what he actually said

We should reverse the presumption of confirmation. The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.

Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances (emphasis in original).

He wasn’t saying that senators should “entertain voting no.” He was saying that they should almost certainly vote no.

The second step: making a big deal out of the distinction between rejecting a nominee and refusing to hold hearings on him.

There was no hint anywhere in the speech that there shouldn’t be hearings or a vote. . . .

​Every single senator has a right to vote no on any given nominee. . . . I’ve opposed some nominees who are out of the mainstream, my friends on the other side of the aisle have opposed some nominees they believe are out of the mainstream, and this pattern may well continue. But the wisdom of the Founding Fathers dictates that we should go through a full vetting and confirmation process so that we and the nation can determine whether these candidates are out of the mainstream even in this ideological era. 

So it would be perfectly fine for 51 senators to announce that they were highly unlikely to vote for anyone the president was likely to nominate–so long as they went through the motions of holding hearings and, maybe, a vote. (Schumer attempted to filibuster Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which is to say he attempted to block an up-or-down vote; and in his 2007 speech, he expressed regret that he had not done more to stop Alito’s confirmation.) But it’s imperative that the Senate go through the motions of holding hearings: It’s the “wisdom of the Founding Fathers,” don’t you know?

Schumer is a very talented politician; not many people could keep a straight face saying these things.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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