Schumer Suggests Ending Filibuster, Pursue DC and Puerto Rico Statehood

October 1, 2020 Updated: October 1, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated the “everything is on the table” mantra amid Democrat efforts to delay the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, while raising the prospect of ending the legislative filibuster and pursuing statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., if Democrats win a majority in the Senate.

“We are using all the tactics we can to slow the thing down,” he told MSNBC in an interview.

“Would that include adding, if the Senate becomes a Democratic majority, adding D.C. and Puerto Rico as states and ending the filibuster?” asked host Joy Reid.

“I’d love to make them states,” Schumer replied, “and as for the filibuster, I’m not busting my chops to become majority leader to do very little or nothing. We are going to get a whole lot done. And as I’ve said, everything, everything is on the table.”

Democrats fear that a successful confirmation of Barrett, a conservative, to the nation’s highest court would represent a rightward shift that could reverse liberal gains and strengthen conservatives’ legal agenda for years to come. In response, Democrats are seeking to stack the deck in their favor, including ending the filibuster.

Former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told MSNBC in an interview in early September that ending the legislative filibuster, which effectively requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance any bill out of the Senate, would be a key move serving to clear the way for Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s progressive agenda if he wins the race for the White House.

“If President Biden wants to get things done, he can’t play around with the filibuster,” Reid told NBC News. “So I think that should be the first item of business with a Senate majority which is Democratic—to get rid of the filibuster.”

Eli Zupnick, former communications director for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and current head of a coalition of veteran Democrat party operatives and activist groups, echoed those remarks in an interview on MSNBC.

“Our goal is to lift the filibuster higher on progressives’ agendas in advance of November and help them make it clear to a future President Biden and Senate leadership that they expect and demand speedy Senate rules reform in 2021 and will not accept more gridlock, delays, and excuses,” Zupnick said.

Granting statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington is being considered presumably on the assumption that this would give Democrats four additional senators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson several weeks ago that “every single Democratic Senate challenger [wants to] admit the District as a state,” adding “they’re going to admit Puerto Rico as a state. That’s four new Democratic senators in perpetuity.”

“And once they get a hammerlock on the Senate, they’re going to then pack the Supreme Court, the circuit courts, and the district courts by creating new vacancies, filling them with judicial activists. And then they’ll do what they always do, turn to the economy and overtax and over-regulate,” McConnell said.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters after the Senate Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 9, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court—known as court-packing—also has been floated by prominent Democratic lawmakers.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), in a Sept. 19 tweet, said that if McConnell “won’t back down” on Barrett’s confirmation, “neither will we.”

“We must make it absolutely clear that if McConnell attempts to fill this seat, we will abolish the filibuster and expand the court when we retake the Senate,” he wrote.

Joining Markey in calls to consider packing the Supreme Court, and echoing the Democrats’ “everything is on the table” message, is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a prominent member of the party’s leftmost wing.

“We should leave all options on the table, including the number of justices that are on the Supreme Court,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Sept. 19.

The idea of expanding the Supreme Court has so far received a muted response from Biden, who during the primary opposed suggestions that Democrats might pack the court, although he has recently become more vague.

Biden refused to answer a question during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 on whether he would support court-packing.

“Whatever position I take in that, that’ll become the issue,” Biden told debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. “The issue is the American people should speak. You’re voting now. Vote, and let your senators know how you feel.”

President Donald Trump interjected, pressing Biden for an answer, prompting Biden to say, “Would you shut up, man?”

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