Schumer Floor Remarks On The “McConnell Ruse” And Calling On Republicans To Consider The Impact Of Proving Their Word Cannot Be Trusted If They Break Their Own Stated Principles To Confirm A Supreme Court Nominee Closer To A Presidential Election Than At Any Point Our Nation’s History

September 22, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today took to the Senate floor to speak about the consequences of Republicans breaking their own stated principles to confirm President Trump’s still unnamed nominee to the Supreme Court immediately before a presidential election. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Tomorrow, the recently departed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court. And on Friday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in state here in the Capitol, the first time in our nation’s long history that a woman has ever received the honor. I can think of no more fitting tribute for a woman who made a life’s work of going where women had never gone before.

Even with the benefit of a few days, the loss of Justice Ginsburg is devastating. You need only walk by the Supreme Court today, where flowers, candles, chalk-written notes, and spontaneous demonstrations have clogged the sidewalks for four days straight, to know her impact on this country.

We will honor her this week. And by all rights, we should honor her dying wish, imparted to her granddaughter, that she “not be replaced until the next President is installed.” All the words and encomia for Justice Ginsburg from the other side ring hollow if they won’t honor her last dying wish.

And yesterday, on the Republican side—so often, President Trump seems to make it worse—President Trump mocked Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish by insinuating that his granddaughter was a liar, once again confirming every terrible thing we know about our president. He said that Justice Ginsburg’s statement was something that sounds like “a Schumer deal or maybe a Pelosi or shifty Schiff.”

That’s the President of the United States of America baselessly suggesting that Democrats fabricated the dying wish of the late Justice Ginsburg. It was a coarse, shameful, lying insult to the late Justice Ginsburg and to her family.

If the president had a shred of human decency, even a little, he would apologize. But we all know he won’t. Everyone here in the Senate ought to be disgusted by the president’s comments. How low can this president go? He knows no depths. You never know that.

You would think that, after the Republican majority led a historic blockade just four years ago to keep open a vacancy on the Supreme Court because it was an election year, they would have the honor and decency to apply their own rule when the same scenario came around again.

You would expect this Senate Republican majority to follow their own rule. What’s fair is fair.

This is what Leader McConnell said in 2016: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

This is the McConnell Rule. The McConnell Rule. This is the principle that Leader McConnell and then-Chairman Grassley used to justify their refusal to even meet with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Here it is, the McConnell Rule. When it’s a presidential season, you can’t vote on a Supreme Court nominee because “the American people should have a voice.”

Now, Leader McConnell repeated that refrain for almost a year. So did almost every other Republican in this chamber.

“The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice.”

“Give the people a voice.”

“The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president.”

“I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of a president’s term. I would say that if it was a Republican president.”

“If an opening came in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process had started – the primary process had started! – we’ll wait to the next election.”

I don’t even have to tell you who those quotes came from—it was nearly every single Republican in this chamber. That is how they justified the unprecedented blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. No vote during a presidential year because we have to let the people decide. They promised to stay consistent if a Republican president won in November.

Turns out, a Republican president did win that fall. And a Supreme Court vacancy did arise in the final year of his term. Not just during the primary process, but long after it was over, with little more than a month—a month—before the election.

And now—whoops—didn’t mean it! It’s different now.

We’re supposed to believe this specious, flimsy, and dishonest argument that it’s about the orientation of the Senate and the Presidency, or how angry Republicans are at Democrats and all the big scary things we might do in the future. Maybe that will justify it. Anything—anything—not to admit the plain fact that they all made one argument for a year—an argument they insisted was a “principle”—when it was good for them politically, and now are doing the opposite thing.

The McConnell Rule: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

Turns out the McConnell Rule was nothing more than a McConnell Ruse.

Leader McConnell sadly—sadly—is headed down the path of breaking his word to the Senate and the American people. He has exposed, once and for all, that a supposed “principle” of giving the people a voice in selecting the next Justice was a farce.

Sadly—again, sadly—Leader McConnell has defiled the Senate like no one in this generation, and Leader McConnell may very well destroy it.

If Leader McConnell presses forward, the Republican majority will have stolen two Supreme Court seats, four years apart, using completely contradictory rationales. How can we expect to trust the other side again?

For those of you on the other side who are still thinking about this—and maybe some who might change their minds—just think of what this does to this body, and to people’s word on one of our most solemn and sacred obligations, to choose a Supreme Court Justice fairly and honestly.

It’s obvious why the Republican Leader sounds so angry and defensive in his remarks. I’ll note for the record that the Republican Leader did not once mention his principle in 2016 that the “American people should have a voice” in selecting the next Supreme Court Justice in any of his speeches. Because he can’t mention it.

Just to give you a sense of how far down the rabbit hole my friend from Kentucky has gone: yesterday—listen to this, this is what he said—Leader McConnell said that President Obama asked the United States Senate an “unusual favor” by fulfilling his Constitutional duty to nominate a Supreme Court Justice with almost a year left in his term. “An unusual favor.”

Only the Republican Leader could look at our system of government so cynically.

Apparently the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent is an “unusual favor” when a Democratic president is in office, but a categorical imperative when a Republican president is in office.

That is actually his argument. I listened to the Republican leader yesterday. I listened to him this morning. Gone are all invocations of giving the American people a voice. It’s nothing so supposedly high-minded this time—no—this time the Republican Leader isn’t even hiding that his decision is nothing, nothing but raw, partisan politics.

According to the Republican Leader, when the President and the Senate Majority are the same party, you can break all the rules to get your Justice. Change the rules of the Senate to pass Supreme Court Justices on a majority vote. Rush it through before an election. Doesn’t matter if you said the exact opposite thing four years ago, two years ago, or even, for some Senators, a few months ago.

This is how our vaunted traditions of bipartisanship and compromise—on life support before now—end. This is how. By one side—in this case the Republican majority under Leader McConnell—deciding that the rules don’t apply to them, even their own rules. That, when push comes to shove, is brute political force, all the way down.

If my friends on the Republican side want that kind of Senate, they can follow Leader McConnell down the very dangerous path he has laid down.