Schumer Floor Remarks On The Senate Republicans’ Unprecedented Efforts To Rush Through A Supreme Court Nominee To Reverse Justice Ginsburg’s Legacy On Health Care, Women’s Rights And So Much More While Ignoring Her Final Wish

September 23, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senate Republicans ignoring their own previously stated principles and the precedents of the Senate to rush through a nominee to the Supreme Court who would reverse Justice Ginsburg’s legacy. Schumer stated that Republicans have made it clear that their words in support of protections for pre-existing conditions cannot be trusted as they plan to rush through a nominee in order to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act in the words of President Trump. Senator Schumer also highlighted the shameful contrast of a Senate Republican majority who put our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on “pause” for four months with their current mad rush to confirm a still unnamed nominee to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible. Yesterday, Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor to introduce a resolution honoring the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and requesting her final wish be honored. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

First let me thank all of my colleagues who were here till late last night and made such persuasive arguments as to why the new Supreme Court Justice matters so much to the American people. To their health care. To the working people’s rights. To women’s rights, to preserving the right to choose. To making sure we have a green planet. To LGBTQ rights. They did an eloquent job and I hope America was listening because this nomination matters. It matters to the average daily lives of average Americans. And last night, by holding the floor till the late hours, Democrats made really strong arguments. So, I thank my colleagues for doing that. 

Now for the third day in a row, Leader McConnell has come to the floor and completely ignored the “principle” he established in 2016, when, mere hours after Justice Scalia passed away, Leader McConnell said that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” His words, “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” Referring to the upcoming election.

But that election was more than 8 months away. We are now only 42 days away. But the so-called McConnell Rule—the supposed principle that the American people deserve a voice in the selection of a Supreme Court justice—hasn’t come up. The Republican Leader can’t mention it. No wonder he never mentions it and he sticks to just diversionary, irrelevant remarks in his speeches on the floor instead of just addressing the main issue: why he said one thing in 2016 and a different thing now.

Instead, the Senate is forced to suffer these tortured explanations and misleading precedents. At a press conference yesterday, here’s how the Republican Leader described the Senate’s role in confirming Supreme Court Justices. He actually said: “we have an obligation under the constitution [to consider a Supreme Court Justice]…should we choose to take advantage of it.”

Did you catch that, M. President? It’s an obligation, but only if the Republican leader chooses to take advantage of it.

I see. When there’s a Democratic president, it’s one of those obligations you don’t have to take advantage of. But when there’s a Republican president, it’s a solemn constitutional duty.

Are we really supposed to swallow the argument that, when the Senate and the President are of the opposite party, one rule applies, but when they’re of the same party, a different rule applies? I didn’t hear that right after Scalia died when Leader McConnell explained why he was holding it up.

So, this idea then—when it’s a one party one rule applies and when it’s another party a different rule applies? We have a term for that. It’s called a double standard.

If the Leader really wants to discuss precedent—real precedent, not fiction—we can dispatch with that conversation in about thirty seconds.

So, Madam President: I have a parliamentary inquiry for the Chair: is there a Senate precedent for confirming a Supreme Court nominee between July and Election Day in a presidential year?

Presiding Officer [Sen. Loeffler (R-GA)]: Materials from the Offices of the Secretary of the Senate do not show such a precedent.

Thank you, Madam President. July is long gone. August is over. We’re now at the end of September.

As you just heard, not from the Democratic Leader, but from the records in the Senate as spoken by the Chair, there is no precedent for confirming a Supreme Court Justice between July and Election Day.

The Republican Leader can come up with arguments that twist things, that jump through hoops—but it doesn’t gain say: no, no precedent for any Supreme Court nominee being confirmed between July and Election Day.

So, as you know, July is gone. August is over. We’re now at the end of September—six weeks before an election in which some people have already begun to vote.

Simply, my Republicans friends have no ground on which to stand. None.

No logic to excuse completely flipping their position, four years apart, under the same circumstances.

No justification for the Senators who said—on the record—that they would “say the same thing if a Republican president were in office”—say the same thing if a Republican president were in office. They said that then, but it doesn’t apply now that we have a Republican president in office.

No defense for the Senator who said: “precedent set. Precedent set. I’m sure come 2020, you’ll remind me of that.”

No place to hide for the Senator who said: “You can say that I said, let the next president decide. Hold this tape. I want you to use my words against me.”

Why are Senate Republicans going to such extreme lengths to ram through a Justice mere weeks before an election—making a complete mockery of their previous “principle”? Why are they committing a power grab so egregious that it risks shredding the last vestiges of trust that remain between our two parties? For what?

Because this is the only way for Republicans to achieve their radical, right-wing agenda—an agenda so far away from where average Americans think, even average Republicans, that they wouldn't dare bring such things on the floor of the Senate. Unable to thrust comically unpopular positions on the American people through the Congress, they have to try the courts—a cynical strategy that dates back to the 1950s.

Republicans are sick and tired, for instance, of this annoying law, the Affordable Care Act, and that it keeps providing health care to millions of Americans. They tried to repeal it in the House just about a million times, and they tried here too in the Senate too, but failed, by one vote. So now, they’ve taken to the courts.

President Trump and Republican Attorneys General are suing, right now, to eliminate the entire law, including protections for up to 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. In fact, President Trump is meeting with those Republican Attorneys General at the White House – TODAY. This afternoon.

Less than a week after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, the president is meeting with the leaders of the Republican lawsuit against our healthcare law.

Ostensibly, it’s about how social media companies are “biased” against conservatives, but who wants to bet that the healthcare lawsuit doesn’t comes up? I’d like for someone to ask them that.

If he cared about health care of the American people, President Trump, himself, would ask the AGs to withdraw their lawsuit. I'm calling on him to do it right now. I doubt he will given his record, given his lack of concern for American people's health care. But he should.

But unfortunately let’s remember. President Trump already told the American people his goal. He said: “my judicial appointments will do the right thing, unlike Bush's appointee John Roberts, on Obamacare.” And he is about to make a Supreme Court pick, while there’s an ongoing lawsuit that seeks to eliminate the Affordable Care Act!

Hear that, America? The healthcare law you want, the healthcare law you need, the healthcare law that protects you against overreaching insurance companies who won't give you insurance when you have a pre-existing condition—President Trump has said he will appoint a nominee who will undo it. And we know he said it because of what he said about Justice Roberts, when Justice Roberts opposed his view on health care.

Guess when that case is being heard by the Supreme Court, America? November 10th. A week after the election. Is that why Senate Republicans are in such a rush to get a new right-wing justice confirmed before the election? So that Supreme Court can do what they failed to do here in the Senate, repeal this healthcare law which protects so many Americans?

Leader McConnell slammed on the breaks while tens of thousands of Americans died from COVID, and now he’s slamming his foot on the gas to approve a Supreme Court Justice who could rip away Americans’ health care in the middle of a pandemic. Shame. Shame.

For four months, the Republican majority delayed a COVID-relief package while the nation suffered. But one hour—one hour—after the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing broke, Leader McConnell said ‘batten down the hatches, we’re full steam ahead’ on confirming another right-wing Justice.

A Justice who could undo Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy.

Who could rip away healthcare from millions of American families.

Who could decide there is no more right to choose for millions of American women. Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance here.

Who could crush unions for millions of American workers.

Who would make it harder to vote for millions of African-Americans.

Who could end marriage equality for millions of LGBTQ Americans, like my daughter and her wife, who looked at each other this weekend and wondered, is our marriage on the line?

Average Americans are thinking, what are they going to lose with this new hard-right special interest-dominated Supreme Court if, if our Republican friends have their wish, which we're going to fight every step of the way.

The stakes of this election, the stakes of this vacancy, concern no less than the future of fundamental rights of the American people.

My friends on the other side will tell you that we’re being hysterical. Ask the mother whose son or daughter has cancer and can't get insurance and watches their child suffer. That's not being hysterical. That’s doing what we’re supposed to do. Not what the folks on the other side are doing. Rushing through a justice, who in a very strong likelihood, if that justice gets approved, will rip health care away from the American people.

America, you have to ask yourselves: if Republicans will completely reverse themselves on a major “principle” whenever it suits them, what can you trust them on?

How can you take their word seriously?

Republicans have praised the legacy of Justice Ginsburg with flowery words about her impact.

But in the resolution I offered yesterday they didn't want to even acknowledge her dying wish that she not be replaced until the next president is installed.

And President Trump had the gall, the temerity, the baseness to suggest that her dying words were not issued by her. How low can a president go?

And now Senate Republicans are working with every fiber of their being to confirm a Justice – despite Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last wish, in contradiction to her dying, most fervent wish – who will reverse her legacy.

This is not speculation. This is not hyperbole. President Trump has said again and again and again that he wants the Supreme Court to “terminate” the healthcare law. He made it clear that he has a litmus test: any Trump nominee must want to strike down Roe v Wade.

Republicans should – for once – be straight with the American people: they are fighting to reverse Justice Ginsburg’s legacy – not to honor it. All of their speeches and praise run totally hollow and are belied by their actions.

America: You can’t trust them at their word. You can’t trust them to protect your healthcare. And you definitely can’t trust this Senate majority to protect you.