Chuck Schumer rallies opposition to Trump court lineup
WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Democrat tried Monday to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick by President Trump who would oppose abortion rights, issuing a striking election-year call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting ‘‘pressure on the Senate.’’
With Trump saying he will pick from a list of 25 potential nominees he has compiled with guidance from conservatives, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said any of them would be ‘‘virtually certain’’ to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women’s right to abortion.
They would also be ‘‘very likely’’ to back weakening President Barack Obama’s 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, Schumer said.
Schumer said that while Democrats don’t control the Senate — Republicans have a 51 to 49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block ‘‘an ideological nominee,’’ people should tell their senators to oppose anyone from Trump’s list.
‘‘It will not happen on its own,’’ the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday’s New York Times. ‘‘It requires the public’s focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate.’’
Trump has said he is focusing on up to seven potential candidates, including two women, to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court. He has said he will announce his pick July 9.
Trump interviewed four prospective justices Monday, as he moved forward with his speedy selection process.
The White House refused to disclose the names of whom the president met with at the White House, but according to people briefed on the vetting process, they were the federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Brett M. Kavanaugh of the District of Columbia Circuit, and Raymond M. Kethledge and Amul R. Thapar of the 6th Circuit. The president met alone with each of them for 45 minutes. The full list of names was first reported by The Washington Post.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said the four “are outstanding people and they are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way.’’
Trump added that he would meet with two or three more before his July 9 announcement.
He consulted with advisers over the weekend at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, and the White House has mobilized a team to manage the nomination process.
White House counsel Don McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said. He played the same role in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.
Raj Shah will take leave from his role in the press office to work full time on communications with Congress about the nominaton. Justin Clark, the director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.
Schumer’s column appeared a day after Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins said she would back only nominees who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision.
Trump has embraced antiabortion groups and vowed to appoint federal judges who will favor efforts to roll back abortion rights. But he has said he would not question potential high-court nominees about their views on abortion, saying it was ‘‘inappropriate to discuss.’’
Without Kennedy, the Supreme Court will have four justices picked by Democratic presidents and four picked by Republicans, giving Trump the chance to shift the ideological balance toward conservatives for years to come.
Both Chief Justice John Roberts and Gorsuch have indicated broadly that they respect legal precedent.
On Sunday, Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to Trump on judicial nominations, said he expected Trump to select a nominee who is mindful of precedent but who is also more ‘‘originalist and textualist.’’ That judicial approach typically involves a more literal interpretation of the Constitution, and not reading into the Constitution language that doesn’t explicitly appear.
The Republicans’ 51-to-49 majority in the Senate is even closer because of the absence of ailing Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Even though Republicans changed Senate rules last year to allow confirmation by simple majority, if Democrats hold together, they cannot afford defections. Vice President Mike Pence can break a tie.