Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) apologized on Thursday for his impassioned comments about two Supreme Court justices, saying he “should not have used the words.”
Schumer derided Trump-appointed Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh on Wednesday as the Supreme Court heard arguments on a Louisiana law restricting abortion rights, saying they “will pay the price” if they side with the court’s conservatives on this case. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” he added.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer said his words “didn’t come out the way I intended to.”
“My point was that there would be political consequences for President Trump and Senate Republicans if the Supreme Court, with the newly confirmed justices, stripped away a woman’s right to choose,” he said. He added: “I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language.”
A clip of Schumer’s speech circulated on social media and was condemned by conservatives, including President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who on Thursday said the words “at the very best...were astonishingly reckless and irresponsible” and “clearly...dangerous.”
“It has almost been a century since the last time Democrats threatened to pack the Supreme Court because they wanted different rulings. History still judges that disgraceful episode to this day,” McConnell said. “So I would suggest that my Democratic colleagues spend less time trying to threaten impartial judges, and more time coming up with ideas that are actually constitutional.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a rare rebuke, saying Schumer’s comments were “not only inappropriate” but “dangerous.”
“All members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter,” Roberts said.
During court arguments on Wednesday, justices focused their questions on how specifically the Louisiana law would affect women and clinics that perform the procedure.
“I feel so deeply the anger of women all across America about Senate Republicans and the courts working hand in glove to take down Roe v. Wade,” Schumer told his Senate colleagues. “Republican state legislatures are restricting a woman’s right to choose so severely as to make it nonexistent, and the courts are now likely to go along because Senate Republicans have confirmed nominees they believe will strip away women’s rights and fundamentally change this country.
“I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political and public opinion consequences for the Supreme Court,” he said, “and it is a gross distortion to imply otherwise.”