'What would McConnell do?' Schumer urged to play hardball to delay Barrett confirmation

'What would McConnell do?' Schumer urged to play hardball to delay Barrett confirmation
David Masciotra

Arguing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would do precisely the same if the roles were flipped, progressives are urging Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to use the temporary numbers advantage his caucus could have due to the coronavirus outbreak among the chamber's Republicans to delay hearings on President Donald Trump's right-wing Supreme Court nominee until after next month's election.

With six GOP senators forced into quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 or coming into contact with someone who did, McConnell said in a statement that he will request unanimous consent Monday afternoon for a two-week Senate recess, a move that would push the chamber's scheduled legislative business back to October 19.

Progressives, including advocacy group Demand Progress and The Daily Poster's David Sirota, are calling on Senate Democrats to reject McConnell's consent request and force a floor vote on any effort to adjourn the chamber—a vote Democrats could win if the caucus shows up and remains united—unless it delays the final vote on Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation until after the November 3 election.

Demand Progress executive director David Segal noted in a series of tweets Sunday that "one side will have the majority on the Senate floor tomorrow. Sen. Schumer should make sure it's his team, move to adjourn until after the election."

"Dems have 47-45 advantage to draw on (assuming Collins + Murkowski don't feel need to help out Mitch)," Segal wrote, referring to the two Republican senators who have voiced opposition to voting on Barrett's confirmation before the presidential election. "Advantage Dems—will they act like it?"

Segal acknowledged the difficulty Schumer could have encouraging members of his caucus to return to Washington, D.C. for a vote amid the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill.

"But showing up in PPE and fighting to block the SCOTUS nomination could save untold lives," said Segal. "Countless doctors, nurses, custodians, etc. have put themselves at much greater risk for months."

Sirota, a former speechwriter for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), advocated the same approach late Sunday, tweeting: "With any tactical question right now, the easiest answer to 'what should Senate Democrats do?' is to ask 'what would McConnell do if the roles were reversed?'"

In his newsletter, Sirota noted that "if Democrats are able to vote down McConnell's adjournment resolution, they could use their leverage to demand an adjournment resolution that defers the Supreme Court confirmation hearings and moves forward a pandemic relief package."

"If Democrats deny McConnell unanimous consent, vulnerable GOP senators in key battleground states may have to leave the campaign trail, because Republicans would potentially need every vote they have," Sirota added. "If Democrats gather enough of their caucus to the senate floor, they may be able to vote down an adjournment resolution on a roll call vote."

In his statement on Sunday, McConnell reaffirmed his intention to allow Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett to begin on October 12 even as the coronavirus spreads through Congress and the White House. "The Senate's floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham," said the Majority Leader.

While it remains to be seen whether Schumer will heed progressives' demands to play procedural hardball, the Minority Leader on Sunday voiced opposition to McConnell's plan for a two-week Senate recess that would allow Barrett's Judiciary Committee hearings to start as scheduled and vowed to use "every tool in the toolbox" to delay the right-wing nominee's confirmation.

"As we continue to learn of additional colleagues testing positive for Covid-19, it is increasingly clear that rushing Amy Coney Barrett's hearing forward in the midst of a Covid outbreak in the White House and Senate would turn an illegitimate process into a reckless and dangerous one," Schumer said during a press conference. "At the same time, there has been bipartisan agreement that remote hearings for lifetime appointments to higher federal courts is absolutely insufficient."

"Judge Barrett's confirmation would lead to the end of the Affordable Care Act, during a pandemic, while tens of thousands of Americans are being diagnosed with Covid-19 each day," Schumer added. "As the virus continues to run rampant—and the seven million Americans who survived the disease have a lifetime pre-existing condition—rushing a nominee onto the court who will rip insurance away from 20 million Americans when they need it most, while simultaneously stripping pre-existing condition protections for 130 million citizens, only adds insult to injury."

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