Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday attempted to walk back comments he made a day earlier warning that Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will “pay the price” should they rule against abortion advocates.
Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Schumer spoke before a cheering crowd of abortion-rights advocates as the court took up its first case considering abortion rights since Trump nominees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were confirmed. The case deals with a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer told the crowd. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
A spokesman for Schumer said the minority leader’s comments were a “reference to the political price” Republicans will pay for putting Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the court, as well as a warning that the justices will inspire a “major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
The minority leader’s remarks prompted an outpouring of criticism from Republicans and Chief Justice John Roberts, who chastised Schumer in a rare statement saying that, “threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”
In a floor speech on Thursday, Schumer backtracked on his remarks, admitting that, “yes, I am angry. The women of America are angry.”
“Now, I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn’t come out the way I intended to,” Schumer said. “My point was that there would be political consequences -political consequences – for President Trump and Senate Republicans if the Supreme Court with the newly-confirmed justices stripped away a woman’s right to choose.”
“Of course I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political and public opinion consequences for the Supreme Court and it is a gross distortion to imply otherwise,” the minority leader added.
“I am from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language,” the New York Democrat continued. “I shouldn’t have used the words I did but in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing.”
Schumer went on to say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “knows that” and “Republicans who are busy manufacturing outrage over these comments know that, too.”
McConnell beforehand had accused Schumer of trying to “gaslight the entire country” with his claim that he was simply speaking about political consequences for Republicans and not addressing the justices.
“What will remain long after the clamor over my comments dies down is the issue at hand, a woman’s constitutional right to choose and Republican attempts to invalidate it,” Schumer concluded.