Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he could have used a better choice of words in a speech about abortion that drew a rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and condemnations from Senate Republicans.
“I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They did not come out the way I intended to,” Schumer said Thursday in a speech on the Senate floor. “My point was there would be political consequences, for President Trump and Senate Republicans — if the Supreme Court, with newly confirmed justices, stripped away a woman’s right to choose.”
“I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in a strong language,” he added.
Schumer appeared at a rally outside the Supreme Court earlier this week during which he pledged that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — both appointed by President Donald Trump — would “pay the price” if they voted to uphold a Louisiana law restricting access to abortion. It is the first major abortion rights case since both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were appointed by Trump.
“You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” he warned at the rally, which was organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights, calling out the two justices by name.
The comments didn’t sit well with Roberts, who issued a rare statement rebuking the Democratic minority leader on Wednesday.
“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,” Roberts said in the statement.
Republicans piled on, with some accusing Schumer of threatening bodily harm against the justices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said Schumer engaged in “shameless efforts to bully” the court by personally going after its members. He called the remarks “astonishingly reckless and completely irresponsible” and urged the senator from New York to apologize. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), meanwhile, said he planned on introducing a resolution to censure the minority leader on the floor of the Senate.
But Schumer defended the spirit of his remarks on Thursday, accusing Republicans of “manufacturing outrage” about the speech and ignoring efforts to gut abortion rights across the country.
“What will remain long after the clamor over my comments dies down is the issue at hand: a woman’s constitutional right to choose and Republican attempts to invalidate it,” he said. “The fact that my Republican colleagues have worked, systematically over the course of decades, to install the judicial infrastructure to take down Roe v. Wade — and do very real damage to the country and the American way of life. That is the issue that will remain.”
The case before the court revolves around a law passed by Louisiana in 2014 that mandates doctors at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a requirement that abortion rights advocates say creates an undue burden that could force two of the state’s three clinics to close.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leading liberal on the bench, aggressively grilled supporters of the law during oral arguments on Wednesday, taking on “each of their arguments one by one,” according to CNN.
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