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Schumer sees GOP in ‘pickle’ on Supreme Court nomination

The Senate’s Republican leader finds himself in a “pickle” by insisting that only the next president nominate a new Supreme Court justice, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Thursday, observing that GOP opposition is “beginning to crack” and that confirmation hearings will ensue.

Schumer, in Buffalo to participate in the installation ceremonies for new U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo and other events, told The Buffalo News he believes that the weekend admonition by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., against President Obama filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia will not stand.

“My guess is that Sen. McConnell will see that public opinion is against him and will hold hearings,” Schumer said. “It will come to a head once the president makes a nomination.”

The New York Democrat also said he hopes the Senate will not rely on a “recess appointment” – a temporary choice made when the Senate is in recess, and lasting without Senate confirmation until the end of the current Congress.

“I hope we won’t get to that point,” the senator said, “because recess appointments don’t have the legitimacy of a nomination and vote, and also, it only lasts while the president is president, so you’re starting all over again.

“It’s a flawed process, the recess, so I hope we won’t get to it.”

Schumer defended himself against criticism that he suggested the exact type of delay in 2007 toward the end of Republican President George W. Bush’s term. At the time, he asked the Senate to “reverse the presumption of confirmation” at that point in the Bush presidency.

Since then, Schumer has absorbed significant flak, even the accusation of engaging in a “hypocritical argument” by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, earlier this week on Dallas radio.

But the New York senator shot back Thursday by insisting that he has always said – before 2007 and up until today – that any senator has the right to vote against a nominee viewed as outside the mainstream.

“They’re in a bad position and they have tried to find a diversion,” he said of the criticism. “It doesn’t hold water.

“I don’t want judges to be too far right or too far left. If you think they are outside the mainstream, you have an obligation to vote no. Most senators have voted no at some point. Sen. McConnell has; I have.”

Schumer reiterated the advice recently given to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, on the same subject.

“The Constitution is clear,” he said. “I said to Cruz: ‘Tell me where the sentence is in the Constitution that says the president can nominate for only three years.’ ”

He added that 17 Supreme Court justices have been chosen in the fourth year of a presidential term, including current Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in 1988, who was confirmed in a 97-0 vote.

“What I hope will happen is the president will nominate a bipartisan, mainstream nominee who can get support from both sides of the aisle,” Schumer said. “We will work toward that, and that’s what the public wants.”

Schumer predicted that a “fine lawyer with a great mind” will garner GOP support, as did Obama’s last two nominees.

He said the gridlock created by a 4-4 Supreme Court “ties up lower courts in knots” and stymies a national business community often bound by high court decisions.

Schumer also said the Senate is asked to “do its job” by everyone he meets across New York State.

“If some people end up voting no, that’s their prerogative, that’s OK for me,” he said. “Hopefully, there will be a nominee who will garner support from a broad segment.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com and jzremski@buffnews.com