Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated his intention to block President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, indicating on "State of the Union" Sunday he'd rather leave the 9th seat — formerly occupied by the late Antonin Scalia — open if "the nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream."
The seat has been open since Scalia's death last February. Former President Barack Obama tried to fill the seat on his way out the door with appeals court judge Merrick Garland, but the Senate refused to consider Garland and declined to vote on his nomination.
Since that time, Senate Democrats have been seething over the slight and have vowed to block any Trump pick.
Meanwhile, liberal groups are gearing up for a fight and already calling Trump's list of 20 potential nominees "very extreme."
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"We're hearing from Senate Democrats and parallel concern among outside groups that this is going to be a major fight," said Marge Baker, [Executive Vice President of People For the American Way]. "We'll be arguing that Democrats use every means at their disposal to defeat the nominee. This is going to be 'all hands on deck,' using all means at our disposal."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said it is hard for him to imagine Trump picking a nominee who Democrats could support, and said he would "absolutely" fight to keep the seat vacant rather than let the Senate confirm a Trump nominee deemed to be outside the mainstream.
"We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice," Schumer told MSNBC on Jan. 3, adding that if the Republicans "don't appoint someone who's really good, we're going to oppose them tooth and nail."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been trading barbs since early December when Schumer first began asserting his desire to keep the seat open rather than confirm a Trump SCOTUS pick Democrats considered extreme.
“Apparently, there’s yet a new standard which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday at the GOP leadership’s weekly news conference. “I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate.”
Senate Democrats could actually succeed in holding up Trump's pick indefinitely. A 60 vote majority is required in the Senate to get past the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. There are 52 Republican senators, who must all vote for Trump's pick plus eight Democrat senators. McConnell could also use his position as Majority Leader to change the rules and eliminate the filibuster, like former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) did in the past.
Republicans have some history with the latter approach, complaining in 2013 that Senate Democrats, then in the majority, had violated their rights by voting to ban the filibuster for executive branch and judicial nominees beyond the Supreme Court.
Trump has indicated he thinks he knows who his pick is likely to be, leading some to speculate that he may choose either Judge William Pryor, an Alabama-based judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, or Diane Sykes, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.