Sep 22, 2020

Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript September 22: SCOTUS Vacancy

Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript September 22: SCOTUS Vacancy
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsChuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript September 22: SCOTUS Vacancy

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on September 22 to discuss voting on a SCOTUS nominee before the election. Schumer said: “Leader McConnell’s actions may now very well destroy the institution of the Senate. If leader McConnell presses forward, the Republican majority will have stolen two Supreme Court seats four years apart, using completely contradictory rationales.” Read the transcript of his briefing here.

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Chuck Schumer: (00:00)
… With the soon to be elect vice president, Harris.

Chuck Schumer: (00:08)
Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for being here. I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues in our caucus and our leadership team, Dick Durbin and Patty Murray. Now, right over there, thousands have come to the steps of the highest court to pay tribute to Justice Ginsburg. She was an amazing lady and it is in a male dominated world of all these legal giants. She was smarter than they were, she was more persistent than they were, and she accomplished much more than they did. And I admire her and I come from her neighborhood. And as a neighborhood boy, you feel pride in someone doing so much in our neighborhood. We both are graduates of James Madison High School, Brooklyn, New York.

Chuck Schumer: (01:11)
So, so many have paid tribute to come to the steps of the highest court to pay tribute to justice Ginsburg, but my Senate colleagues have paid tribute as well, but in words only. Empty words because their actions haven’t. Republican majority leader McConnell likes to say he’s a Senate institutionalist. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has defiled the Senate [inaudible 00:01:42] in recent history. Leader McConnell’s actions may now very well destroy the institution of the Senate. If leader McConnell presses forward, the Republican majority will have stolen two Supreme Court seats four years apart, using completely contradictory rationales. This was McConnell’s rule when Merrick Garland was nominated by president Obama. “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.” Certainly isn’t applying now. Leader McConnell has basically decided the rules don’t apply to Republicans, even their own rules. It’s just brute political force.

Chuck Schumer: (02:41)
If that becomes the standard in the Senate, how can we expect to trust the other side again? Why should the American people trust the Republican senators to do anything they say when they are proving right now that their speeches mean the moment the shoe is on the other foot. Senate Republicans should heed leader McConnell’s own words from 2013. He said, “You’ll regret this and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.” The American people don’t want Republicans to move forward with a confirmation, they know this is wrong. A Reuters poll recent showed 62% of Americans said the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s passing should be filled by the candidate who wins on November 3rd. The next Supreme Court justice, of course we know, could change the complexion of the court for a generation and their decisions will touch every aspect of American life.

Chuck Schumer: (03:49)
But if Republicans say, “The heck with it, we don’t care about anything. The rules, the Senate, the institution, and just move forward.” Everything Americans value hangs in the balance. Healthcare, protections for preexisting conditions, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, climate change and so much else is at risk. The entire Affordable Care Act and protections for up to 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions hangs in the balance. A woman’s fundamental, constitutional right to make her own medical decisions, the right to choose for the first time in decades hangs in the balance. The right of workers to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages hangs in the balance. The future of our planet, environmental protections and the possibility of bold legislation to address climate change as well as the Clean Air and Clean Water Act hang in the balance. Voting rights and the right of every American citizen to have a voice in our democracy hangs in the balance, and so much more. And on every one of these issues, what the Republicans have done is they have pulled the federal judiciary to their far right side. Now, they want to tilt the Supreme Court even further away so it doesn’t reflect the values of the majority of Americans, it reflects the values of an extreme right-wing majority.

Chuck Schumer: (05:32)
We’ve seen this play out over and over again. Republicans, at the same time as they are rushing through a Supreme Court nominee, they’re doing nothing about the COVID crisis. It’s been four months since the House passed its Heroes Act. McConnell had a pause, he wanted to assess the situation, then he put a bill on the floor that was so emaciated it did hardly anything. And now, they’re ignoring COVID and it’s huge crisis once again to try and rush through a Supreme Court nominee. And at the same time, Senate Republicans in this administration have demonstrated they can’t be trusted to protect the American people. That’s why Senator Murray and I introduced the Science Transparency Over Politics Act, the STOP Act, to establish essential oversight of the coronavirus response. The bill would create a task force to report to the public when politics are behind COVID response decisions, rather than Republicans just letting scientists do their work. You’ll hear a lot more about that from Senator Murray, but we Democrats are fighting as hard as we can to protect Americans. And we need Americans-

Speaker 2: (06:53)
You ain’t doing shit, stop lying to the people.

Speaker 4: (07:03)
Jesus saves.

Speaker 2: (07:04)
Stop lying to the people.

Speaker 4: (07:04)
Jesus loves you guys.

Chuck Schumer: (07:06)
Thank you. Democrats are fighting as hard as we can to protect Americans, but we need Americans to continue to fight with us, to keep holding Republican senators accountable. Senator Durbin.

Chuck Schumer: (07:20)
I got it. Oh, you want to put that there? Okay.

Dick Durbin: (07:21)
I want to thank you, senator Schumer. When we used to do tours of the Capitol, people would point out one of the rooms in there and say, “That’s the Senate.” But they were wrong, it’s just a room. The Senate is 100 men and women who come together with a constitutional responsibility, and the only way that they can actually be a Senate is if they have some basic understandings. Understandings of history, tradition, the rules and mutual respect. What we see happening in the Senate today with Senator McConnell’s decision to reverse his position of four years ago and to push through the vacancy filling nominee of the Trump administration is really is an assault on all of those things. History, tradition, rules, and the mutual respect of the United States Senate. We’ve watched as his colleagues have come forward and squirmed away from their positions of four years ago, which kept Merrick Garland’s name from even being considered in a hearing.

Dick Durbin: (08:23)
And here today, we face another issue. Not just who’s going to win this verbal battle over how to choose the nominee to fill the vacancy, but who is going to lead on this Supreme Court across the street. Most of the people I represent in Illinois know the Supreme Court’s important, but if you ask them, “Why is it important to you personally?” They’d be little hard pressed to come up with an answer. There is an easy answer today, because we have 20 million Americans who are protected by the Affordable Care Act, we know that this protection is at risk in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court majority is at risk for the tactics of Mitch McConnell. We also know the protection on preexisting conditions is particularly relevant today. In the middle of this COVID-19 crisis, over 6 million Americans have already been diagnosed as positive. Some of them will be lucky and get over it and go right about their business. Many will carry problems with them for a long period of time. And trust me, if the insurance companies were given the power they had before the Affordable Care Act, those people, those who tested positive will be people with pre-existing conditions who will pay more for their insurance if they can even buy it.

Dick Durbin: (09:35)
That’s the reality of the future of the Affordable Care Act, the role of the Supreme Court and the political debate taking place on the floor of the United States Senate. What’s at stake here is not just the Senate and not just the Supreme Court, but whether or not we will stand up for the history, rules and traditions of the Senate and most importantly, for mutual respect of members. What Senator McConnell is putting the Senate through now is so destructive. For those of us who’ve been there for a while, we knew a different Senate under different leadership. We need to return to that. If the American people are going to have their respect restored in this institution, in this government and the decisions we make, we have to prove it. And we do it by living up to our word of four years ago and saying that this president shall not choose the nominee to fill the vacancy, but the next president, whoever it may be will have that opportunity.

Speaker 7: (10:27)
Senator Murray.

Chuck Schumer: (10:27)
[inaudible 00:10:30], we’re going to do a little cleaning.

Speaker 4: (10:27)
Jesus saves.

Patty Murray: (10:48)
Well, thank you, Senator Durbin. It seems that virtually every day there’s a new report of the Trump administration meddling in decisions that should be driven by public health and by science. The STOP Act, which we introduced today, says enough is enough. Families and communities are looking for accurate information about how to make the right decision for themselves and their loved ones, and they should be able to trust what they hear from their Health Department. This bill should not be one bit controversial, especially given how many of our Republican colleagues have said, “We need to be listening to the experts and following the science.” Now, they will have a chance to show they mean it with action. Another thing my Republican colleagues have repeatedly said is they support protections for preexisting conditions. Well, just days after the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that will decide the future of healthcare in this country.

Patty Murray: (11:51)
Depending on that decision, tens of millions of Americans could lose their healthcare, pre-existing conditions could go away, young adults on their parents’ coverage could be kicked off and I could say more. Keep in mind, this is in the middle of a still raging pandemic that has cost 200,000 American lives, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and left millions without health insurance, and left people nationwide with after effects of COVID-19 that in itself could become a pre-existing condition. So, again, when healthcare matters perhaps more than it ever has, in the middle of a pandemic that is costing lives and sickening people nationwide, we still see Republican leaders refusing to stand up to the president on issues as stark as political interference in a public health agency. Running Rashad over their own claims they support protections for pre-existing conditions and ignoring the dire health and economic impacts of this pandemic.

Patty Murray: (13:02)
All to jam a highly partisan judge onto the Supreme Court through a highly partisan process, as people in this country today are already casting their ballots in the upcoming election. Democrats are not going to stop for a minute over the next critical days and weeks when it comes to holding them to account for their hypocrisy. And I also want to add, I know this is an uphill battle, but just like when we defeated Trump Care when no one thought we could, everyone who speaks up matters. Every voice is going to make a difference and we should never underestimate that. So, to those out there who care as much as we do, stand up, speak out, it makes a difference. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (13:50)
Jesus saves.

Chuck Schumer: (13:52)
Questions?

Speaker 4: (13:52)
Jesus loves you guys.

Chuck Schumer: (13:53)
Yes, ma’am?

Speaker 6: (13:54)
Do you think that this brings the importance of elections and voting into focus? The reason why there’s likely going to be a third conservative justice in the court is because president Trump won the election, Senate Republicans won the majority. What is the message now to Democrats in terms of the importance of winning elections?

Chuck Schumer: (14:17)
It’s not just a message to Democrats, it’s a message to the American people. Sorry, getting used to this. It’s a message to the American people, which is so much of what you value is at stake and it affects individuals. My daughter and her wife were sitting together at our [inaudible 00:14:36] dinner when we heard the news of the terrible tragedy of Justice Ginsburg’s passing. And one of them looked to the young and said, “Do you think our right to marry,” they’re married already but, “will be preserved?” So, this matters to the American people. It’s way beyond politics, but it means that if the American people care about these issues, they should let their Republican senators who seem to be lining up lockstep, that they shouldn’t be voting for this nominee. And then, they have the opportunity at the ballot box just 40 some odd days away to change it. Yes?

Speaker 8: (15:11)
Doesn’t this make an argument, instead of talking about a filibuster, to return to a 60 vote threshold where Republicans would have had to come to Democrats for this and will you do that if you get the majority back?

Chuck Schumer: (15:22)
Look, all I’ve said is our first job is to get the majority back and everything is on the table, but it was, “Everything is on the table. We are going to look at how we can produce change.”

Speaker 9: (15:39)
Senator, you have friends across the aisle, colleagues that you work with across the aisle. Obviously, you disagree on a lot of things. All of them, except for a couple, are signing on to this. Does this affect relationships within the Senate, across the-

Chuck Schumer: (15:51)
Well, it’s hard, particularly to so many who spoke so strongly before led by Senator McConnell, but including Senator Graham. When they do such an about face on such an important issue that’s so dramatically contradictory, it makes it hard. Look, we’ll always have to try but it’s created a lot of mistrust and ill feeling in a way that I haven’t seen it occur in the Senate in a very long time.

Speaker 10: (16:23)
Senator Schumer, do you think Democrats do an ethical about face as well? You [inaudible 00:16:28]yourself that the Senate has confirmed 17 schools [inaudible 00:16:36] election years. Hashtag [inaudible 00:16:34].

Chuck Schumer: (16:37)
Just look at-

Speaker 10: (16:37)
You have switched positions, essentially.

Chuck Schumer: (16:38)
Yeah, just look at that. It’s McConnell who’s changed the rules, not us.

Speaker 11: (16:45)
Did the Senate move too fast when they confirmed Justice Ginsburg-

Chuck Schumer: (16:48)
Well, I’d have to go over the history there, but it wasn’t on the eve of an election like this is.

Speaker 11: (16:54)
Why does that matter?

Chuck Schumer: (16:55)
Go ahead, next question.

Speaker 12: (16:57)
Do you worry at all that your language about everything is on the table could be used against some of your Democratic Senate candidates-

Chuck Schumer: (17:03)
Everything is on the table. My Senate Democratic colleagues and candidates know America needs some change, and we’re going to figure out the best way to do it. Yes, next.

Speaker 13: (17:15)
Is there any nominees that president Trump could put forward that Senate Democrats would eventually be able to get behind?

Chuck Schumer: (17:21)
Well, right now they come from the list of the Federalist Society, which has some very strict strictures. And that makes it very difficult, but you’d have to wait and see each nominee. The names we’ve heard are not acceptable at all. Not even close. Nope. One at a… Yes, last question.

Speaker 14: (17:42)
Why did Democrats invoke the two hour rule today?

Chuck Schumer: (17:44)
We invoked the two hour rule because we can’t have business usual when Republicans are destroying the institution as they have done, and that’s why we invoked the two hour rule. Thank you, everybody.