HARTFORD, CT — U. S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy know the numbers aren’t with them in their battle to have the Senate wait until after the mid-term elections to vote on a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
So on Friday the two Connecticut senators called the vote on next Supreme Court justice “the most important vote” they’ll take in their political careers and said they are banking on the American people to rally to the cause.
“The biggest means we have to give the American people a voice is to go to the American people,” Blumenthal said at a press conference at the Legislative Office Building. “We need you to rise up with outrage and anger and say to your senators this decision matters,” Blumenthal said.
Murphy said the vote on the next Supreme Court justice is “all about the future of democracy. It will determine the course of the Supreme Court for a generation.”
Kennedy was widely known as the swing vote on many issues before the Supreme Court. Blumenthal and Murphy said major policies are in danger of being overturned if President Donald Trump nominates a conservative jurist and the Republicans and their 51-49 majority in the Senate approve his pick before the November election.
Trump said Wednesday he would begin an immediate search for a replacement, likely from a list of 25 conservative jurists his administration has already compiled.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor moments after Kennedy’s announcement to say that he plans to push a confirmation vote ahead of the mid-term elections.
“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said.
Murphy said McConnell set a precedent in denying a confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and should “stick to the rule he set.”
Murphy and Blumenthal both noted that Obama nominated Garland nine months before the 2016 election, five months earlier than Kennedy’s surprise resignation announcement last week.
“If it was a good enough rule for President Obama, then it should be a good enough rule for President Trump,” Murphy said about McConnell’s 2016 decision delay a vote until after the election.
Murphy added, however, that he was “not optimistic that he (McConnell) will choose that route.”
“We will mount a campaign all across this country,” Murphy said, to fight a nomination if a judge with far-right views is nominated.
After the Republicans blocked the vote on Garland, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late-Antonin Scalia.
Democrats are hoping the 2018 mid-term elections will bring them the majority but have only a small window of opportunity given the seats in play.
Laws that are at stake, Blumenthal and Murphy said, including the Affordable Care Act, abortion, the future of contraception, and the future of affirmative action.
Murphy warned: “Connecticut may not be able to protect itself” if the country’s highest court reverses landmark rulings previously made.
But abortion is codified in Connecticut’s law, so even if Roe v. Wade is overturned it will remain legal in Connecticut.
Blumenthal added that Trump’s criteria for his selection is picking a jurist “who will automatically overrule Roe v. Wade.”
“This choice has real life impact for women’s rights,” Blumenthal said, adding it will also have impact on workers rights, gay rights, and civil rights.
“And this isn’t just for a few years,” Blumenthal said. “This next justice will serve for decades. It’s a defining moment for the court and for everyone of us who votes.”
Blumenthal said what concerns him most is that the list of judges Trump is considering are “mostly a collection of far right, fringe ideologues.”
The best judges, Blumenthal said, need to be “open minded, fair and willing to listen to both sides of an argument.”
Blumenthal added that one other concerning issue is that when Trump nominated Gorsuch he tapped a conservative to replace a conservative (Scalia).
It’s different this time, Blumenthal noted, reiterating that Kennedy has been the court’s swing vote in many critical decisions.