Sen. Schumer’s chutzpah
He proposes a Supreme Court justice with the stamp of Democratic approval
Chuck Schumer is a New Yorker, so he knows about chutzpah. He schmears it liberally on his breakfast bagel. Chutzpah is the useful Yiddish for “shameless audacity,” once defined by the young man who murdered his parents and begged the judge and jury to show “mercy for a poor orphan boy.”
The new and improved definition is by Sen. Schumer himself, the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate who helped Harry Reid change the Senate rules four years ago to confirm Democratic judges with 51 votes, and now insists that Republicans use the old rules to require 60 votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s true, as Mr. Schumer argues, that confirming a Supreme Court nominee and nominees for the U.S. Courts of Appeal is not exactly the same thing, but it’s a distinction without a difference. Mr. Schumer’s sudden concern for Senate precedent, and his regret for what he did in 2013 is not remorse with 20/20 hindsight. Mr. Schumer and the Democrats are hardly saying, “If we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t do it.” (They’re saying they want to do it all over Judge Gorsuch.)
The most generous interpretation of Mr. Schumer’s remarkable turnaround, which sets a precedent for imaginative hypocrisy, is that he fell out of his bathtub, hit his head on the toilet seat, and now suffers amnesia. Or perhaps he forgot that he and Harry Reid, his predecessor as the leader of Senate Democrats, once declared that President George W. Bush would get no Supreme Court nominees through the Senate for the last 18 months of his second term, or that a Senate controlled by Democrats wouldn’t consider nominees of President George H.W. Bush in the twilight of his presidency.
Fortunately, Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that sent the Gorsuch nomination on to the full Senate on Monday, does not attribute Mr. Schumer’s mischief to amnesia or an absent-minded loss of memory. It’s become abundantly clear that if the Democrats are willing to filibuster somebody with the credentials, judicial temperament and independence of Judge Gorsuch, Mr. Grassley says, they would filibuster anybody.
“Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency and Democrats recaptured control of the Senate in November, does anyone really think that Mr. Schumer, as majority leader, would not do the exact same thing to overcome a hypothetical Republican filibuster of her nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia?”
Mr. Schumer insists with righteous piety that he wants to do the right thing. “Instead of changing the rules … why [couldn’t] President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?” He even volunteers to work with President Trump to choose a justice that Democrats would vote for. He offers no specific candidate, but Hillary Clinton is a lawyer presently without a client. She’s probably looking for work.
The capital is rife, as usual, with rumor and fantastical speculation, and one notion said to be a Democratic ploy is that Mr. Schumer and his senators would agree not to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination if the Republicans would agree to enable a filibuster next time without the threat of a nuclear option hanging over the debate. But Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, did not come up from Kentucky on a truckload of turnips, and he says that one way or the other Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed when the Senate votes on Friday. “How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends.”
Neil Gorsuch is no stealth candidate. President Trump has done what he said he would do, appoint a like-minded judge to replace Antonin Scalia. He selected him from a list of candidates he introduced early in the 2016 campaign. Everybody understood the stakes. Mr. Schumer and his senators are learning the hard lesson that elections have consequences.