Schumer wants a clear answer from the nominee on Roe v. Wade.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said in an interview that he would urge Democrats to ask the nominee pointedly whether he or she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
“I think people should ask,” Mr. Schumer said. “And I think the American people should expect a direct answer.”
In the past, senators have often couched questions on Roe by asking nominees if they accept the decision as “settled law,” and whether they respect legal precedent. But Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump has upended the old rules by declaring openly that he would only pick nominees who would overturn Roe, and by publicizing a list of potential candidates.
And he noted that past nominees who have said they respect precedent — including Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, named to the court last year by Mr. Trump, who said he would “follow the law of the judicial precedent” — have voted to overturn past decisions, most recently last month in a case that diluted the power of unions.
“No one believes that nominees from a preordained list will simply follow existing law,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s become a dodge. It’s become a bar so low as to be meaningless, given that nominees have made previous pledges and walked right back on them.”
Of course, there is nothing to stop the nominee from delivering the traditional dodge: “With all due respect, I cannot answer a hypothetical question.”
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Capitol Hill
Ahead of the announcement, party leaders issued dueling statements on the Senate floor.
The Senate convened Monday afternoon ahead of the court announcement, which is sure to consume the chamber for months. Mr. Schumer took the moment to warn that Mr. Trump was virtually guaranteed to put forth a nominee who would be hostile to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
“At this critical juncture, with so many rights and liberties at stake, U.S. senators and the American people should expect an affirmative statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans from the next Supreme Court nominee,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, countered with his own warning about the attacks from the left that will be directed at Mr. Trump’s nominee.
“We don’t know who he will name, but we already know exactly what unfair tactics the nominee will face,” Mr. McConnell said. “They won’t be new, and they won’t be warranted. We can expect to hear how they’ll destroy equal rights, or demolish American health care, or ruin our country in some other fictional way.”
—Thomas Kaplan on Capitol Hill
For conservatives, a three-decade dream is within reach.
Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh culminates a three-decade project unparalleled in American history to install a reliable conservative majority on the nation’s highest tribunal, one that could shape the direction of the law for years to come.
All of the years of vetting and grooming and lobbying and list-making by conservative legal figures frustrated by Republican appointees who drifted to the left arguably has come down to this moment, when they stand on the precipice of appointing a fifth justice who, they hope, will finally establish a bench committed to their principles. Read more »
Democrats declined to be presidential props.
President Trump invited a few Senate Democrats to the White House for Monday night’s announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, hoping to at least project an image of bipartisan support from the Democrats who might, just might, vote to confirm his pick.
Alas, they declined to attend.
As Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana put it, “While I appreciate the invitation from the White House to attend this evening’s announcement, I declined so that I can meet first with the nominee in a setting where we can discuss his or her experience and perspectives. In the coming days, I will be reviewing the record and qualifications of the president’s nominee.”
If anything, Senator Joe Manchin III signaled that he could be a hard sell when he picked up an issue that Democratic leaders are pressing: making sure any nominee will protect the Affordable Care Act.
And a key Republican kept her distance.
Also invited to attend the White House rollout: Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and a key abortion rights moderate. “I look forward to seeing the choice,” she said. “I appreciate being invited, but I’m not going to be present. I can get a better sense of it watching it.”
Ms. Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, may be the most essential votes. The loss of a single Republican vote could doom the nomination — if Democrats can hold together.
Senator Bob Casey looks like a “no.”
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is the chamber’s most famous Democratic foe of abortion. His father, Bob Casey Sr., a former governor of the Keystone State, is the Casey on Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the landmark 1992 ruling that affirmed the basic tenets of Roe v. Wade — and on which Justice Kennedy was the key vote.
But the younger Casey does not look like a vote in play — even with Roe possibly in the balance. “It’s a corrupt process and I can’t support it,” Mr. Casey said. “I wasn’t elected to genuflect to the hard right.”
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Capitol Hill
Democrats want to put up a fight, but may not be able to.
Democrats made it clear over the weekend that the bar is high for their votes. But they acknowledged how hard it would be to stop a nominee who has unanimous support among Senate Republicans.
Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, admitted on Sunday that Democratic opposition could be futile. Even if all 49 members of their caucus united in opposition, they would still need at least one Republican to join them to block the nomination.
“It will be very difficult,” Mr. Coons said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If all the Republicans stick together, along with the vice president, they’ll be able to confirm whomever President Trump nominates.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on Sunday that Mr. Trump’s nominee would most likely be in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, who received unanimous Republican support in his confirmation vote and who Mr. Durbin said had voted “in lock step on the Republican conservative side.”
“They want to fill this vacancy to give them an advantage in any future rulings,” Mr. Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The nomination vote will be difficult for Senate Democrats in red states who are up for re-election in November, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. A decision by one or all of them to try to bolster their standing with Republican-leaning voters would undermine Democratic leaders.
Democrats fear that Mr. Trump’s nominee could favor the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion. Here is what each of the four finalists has had to say on the topic.
— Noah Weiland