I understand the Supreme Court is now ostensibly a political organ.
Each side believes it’s entitled to have its own judges approved and cases decided in its favor; this is nothing new.
What is novel on the left is the idea that a certain level of political brute force can be used to achieve the change they want.
It wasn’t just the idea that, since there was now a decided conservative majority on the court, the court ought to be packed or changed in order to eliminate that.
It wasn’t just the fact that liberal judges on the court are now expressly political, the way that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor have been.
It now apparently includes threats by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer against the justices appointed to the high court under President Donald Trump.
If only we could make out what the threat meant.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard one of its first abortion cases with Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as members of the bench. It involves a Louisiana law similar to the Texas law the court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, which required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, among other things.
In that case, the court determined the Texas law didn’t pass the “undue burden” test established by the Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling in 1992.
In the case of the Louisiana bill, however, a lower court decided the law didn’t impose an undue burden on women seeking an abortion the way the Texas law did. Abortion advocates have argued the law is merely designed to make getting an abortion more difficult.
The prospect of the court upholding a regulation on women being able to terminate a pregnancy at any time, understandably, has the left doing its usual conniption routine about conservatives doing violence to the Constitution.
So far, so Amy Schumer. Her distant relative, however, stepped up his game a bit.
The New York senator was the top-billed speaker at a Center for Reproductive Rights protest in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the case was being heard.
He was such a form which … well, you know how a bar cuts people off when they’re too sloshed? Schumer ought to have been cut off by whatever D.C. Starbucks he visited that morning:
In which Chuck Schumer threatens TWO sitting Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. pic.twitter.com/pA3mryeVK2
— Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) March 4, 2020
“They’re taking away fundamental rights!” Schumer said. “I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
They won’t? What’s going to happen to them? Was this part of the speech?
I know the left loves to pontificate on what happens when Trump goes off-script at a rally. This sounds a lot like a) he’s threatening Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh if they don’t decide his way and b) he was two mental millimeters away from shrieking, “release the Kraken!“
I also know it’s a different month and all we can’t remember anything beyond this current news cycle, but it helps to remember what Schumer told Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just last month on the floor of the Senate:
With President Trump publicly attacking a judge:
Now would be the time for Chief Justice Roberts to speak up.
Now would be the time for the Chief Justice to directly and specifically defend the independence of the federal judiciary.
I hope he will see fit to, and do it today. pic.twitter.com/xspNKwRDys
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 13, 2020
I mean, I think we all knew at the time that Schumer didn’t believe this. I didn’t think we’d be proven right so quickly.
Schumer’s threats were received well at the rally.
Chief Justice Roberts was not as amused, however.
“This morning,” Roberts said in a statement, “Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside.”
“Senator Schumer referred to two Members of the Court by name,” the statement continued. “Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
But no, Schumer swears he wasn’t referring to members of the court — honest!
“It’s a reference to the political price Republicans will pay for putting them on the court and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grass-roots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision,” a Schumer spokesman said later on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.
Except they’re not elected officials and can’t reap the whirlwind Schumer specifically said they would. And no, he wasn’t talking about Republicans — unless, of course, the macchiato got the best of him. (Really, D.C. area baristas — do a better job of figuring out when your customers should say when.)
Anyhow, this clip has been the subject of much conservative outrage on social media in the past 24 hours. I understand the impulse, but I can’t particularly bring myself to think about it too deeply, because Schumer clearly didn’t.
In terms of putting judges on the court, Schumer’s side lost.
To quote a famous political sage, elections have consequences.
That’s why, when Republicans got enough members in the Senate to filibuster Obama’s more outré judicial nominees, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster during the appointment process.
When Senate Majority Leader Reid became Senate Minority Leader Reid, Democrats still insisted the upper chamber consider Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in a presidential election year. But alas, there were those pesky consequences.
As for the judges, well, they’re not going anywhere.
There’s nothing that can be done to them.
The likelihood of court-packing is minute at best, given that even the worst possible election result for Republicans would end with the only two court-packers left in the Democratic presidential field, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, running up a brick wall consisting of a slim Democrat majority in the Senate rejecting the idea because of moderates in their own party.
So what’s this threat? It’s sound and fury, signifying applause, and then nothing.
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