Steve Scott, Sen. Richard Blumenthal

WCBS 880

Senator Richard Blumenthal Talks SCOTUS and Justice Kennedy's Retirement

June 28, 2018 - 4:30 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) -- On Tuesday, in a letter to President Trump, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court, effective July 31.

With a swing vote seat now open and the midterm elections around the corner, Washington is on the brink of an intense, partisan, and downright influential battle that could potentially affect the course of history for the next several years.

Immediately after Justice Kennedy’s announcement reached headlines, Senators from all states and parties began weighing in, offering their opinions on the Republican justice’s retirement. WCBS Newsradio 880’s Steve Scott spoke with Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senator hailing from Connecticut, to hear his insight on the news rocking Washington.

“This situation is essentially just insisting that there be deliberate consideration of perhaps the most important vacancy on the United States Supreme Court in generations,” Blumenthal said. “It's a swing vote; it's a highly politicized and polarized time in our court.”

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is promising an immediate vote on Trump’s nomination, Blumenthal believes that the poll to fill the vacancy should be held after November’s midterm elections – a common belief among Democrats. He explained that a decision of this importance that will have a long-lasting effect should not take place so close to an election, especially considering the current partisan political climate.

The senator thought back to 2016, when President Barack Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat left by the late Antonin Scalia. When Obama had announced his nominee, the majority-party Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland, leading to the eventual expiration of his nomination. Blumenthal dubbed this the McConnell rule, named after the Senate Majority Leader, who spearheaded the confirmation hearing refusal.

“The Republicans should follow their own rule, the McConnell rule, which is that no confirmation of a Supreme Court justice should occur this close to an election. In fact, he stopped a vote nine months before the election - here we are only four months away,” Blumenthal said. “And, most important, a decision of this historic magnitude requires deliberate consideration that is impossible in the few highly politicized months we have left before the election.”

Blumenthal explained that Republicans should not look at this Supreme Court nomination as an opportunity to move the bench to the right, but rather a time to appoint an intelligent, levelheaded individual who is capable of making important decisions on cases that come before the court.

"There should be nothing partisan about the choice of a Supreme Court nominee,” Blumenthal said. “What's needed is an independent, open-minded, fair jurist in the mold of Justice Kennedy himself. Not an effort to swing the court to the far right fringe Republican view which is ideological in the extreme and which is bad for the American people.”

Blumenthal expressed concern about the possible repercussions of nominating a right-leaning individual to the bench.

“The prospect of women unable to exercise their reproductive rights or people and workers having no rights when they are in the workplace or healthcare, people losing protection against pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, all could be at risk. In fact, they are at risk,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal pointed to the partisan political atmosphere when explaining why this nomination in particular is of grave importance.

“I have deep respect for this institution, but we're living through a time of unparalleled assault on basic liberties, and that's why we need to insist on a nominee who is fair and open-minded, willing to listen to colleagues and the American people,” Blumenthal said. “Not from the far right fringe ideological wing of the Republican Party, and that's why we're going to be fighting so hard."

While Democrats have made a plea to “fight hard” for a “fair and open-minded” Supreme Court nominee, it is clear that this will be a difficult task to complete. Sixty votes are no longer needed for a Senate confirmation – now, only a simple majority is necessary. Republicans currently occupy 51 seats in the house, putting them in perfect position for a slim victory if votes are casted along party lines.

However, Blumenthal was adamant when explaining that the Democrats will use every strategy in the book to ensure that a vote does not take place before Election Day.

"We will use every tool available, but two ways that strike me as most important,” Blumenthal said.

He first thinks that constituents must voice their belief that the nominee to the Supreme Court should put the people first, and not core Republican ideals.

He called for "an appeal to the American people to express with energy and passion how deeply they feel about the importance of an objective, independent, fair-minded jurist on the court not a person representing the far right fringe of the Republican Party,” Blumenthal said.

And second, Blumenthal is looking at the single vote majority the Republicans hold over the Democrats, hoping that he can flip a single right leaning Senator to stall the nomination.

“My colleagues will be very, very open I think to hearing from people and I urge, in fact I plead with the American people to express their views to my colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “The Republicans have only a razor thin one vote majority. It only takes one vote to swing against a nominee or to insist that the confirmation vote take place after the election when the American people's voice can be heard."