Senate Democrats’ new leader claimed the right Wednesday to filibuster Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, making clear Democrats won’t give the president-elect much of a honeymoon on the most significant of his upcoming appointments.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said nominations to the high court should get support from both parties, and said the filibuster is a way to enforce that on a president. He pointedly noted that when his party changed filibuster rules three years ago, they left intact the ability to filibuster at the Supreme Court level.
“I’ll underline that we did not change the rules for Supreme Court because we thought on something as important as this, there should be some degree of bipartisan agreement,” Mr. Schumer said.
Republicans will hold a 52-48 seat edge in the new Congress, making the filibuster one of the few tools that Mr. Schumer and his fellow Democrats can rely on to gum up the agenda being pushed by Senate GOP leaders.
Both parties have relied on the filibuster to block picks to the executive branch and independent agencies.
Democrats, though, set the precedent for partisan filibusters of federal judges under President George W. Bush by blocking a series of his circuit court nominees. That launched a new phase in partisan wars on Capitol Hill — though both parties have generally steered clear of filibusters when it comes to Supreme Court picks.
The glaring exception came in 2006 when Mr. Schumer and the rest of Democrats’ new leadership team — Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — tried to filibuster the nomination Justice Samuel Alito.
Their attempt, which failed, was also joined by then-Sens. Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Obama has since said he regretted the move.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was easily re-elected to his job Wednesday, has faced a barrage of criticism from Democrats over his refusal to hold a vote on President Obama’s nomination Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge, to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, maintained that the vacant seat on the court should be filled by next president, who is now set to be Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump released a list of possible nominees that was widely applauded by Republican lawmakers and conservative leaders.