New York lawmakers divided over Supreme Court vacancy

Jul 3, 2018

New York’s members of Congress disagree as to how the next Supreme Court Justice should be chosen, after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he will retire at the end of July. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says she's opposed to the list of conservative judges President Donald Trump is considering to replace Kennedy, and she wants to hold out on considering anyone until 2019 since this year is an election year. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama's nominee in 2016 for the same reason, a move Trump supported.

“I just think if that’s the rule he’s going to create, then he should live by that rule too,” Gillibrand said. “So I don’t think we should have a vote on any nominee before the election, and I think we should do everything we can to speak out against these potentially very toxic nominees who will undermine women’s rights, gay rights, clean air, clean water, immigration reform – all of these ideals that we care deeply about. I’m concerned that an ultra-radical, right-wing justice could change this country for decades.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) says it's too early to call for boycotting any of Trump's nominees. It will depend on whom is selected, he says.

But the Democrat agrees with Gillibrand that the nominee should not be someone who wants to overturn Supreme Court decisions upholding abortion and the Affordable Care Act.

“I hope they’ll be a middle-of the road, mainstream person who will not try to make law on his or her own, but follow the existing law,” Schumer said. “That’s what judges are supposed to do. They’re supposed to interpret the law, and the judges at the extremes tend to make it.”

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says the replacement process should not be dominated by politics, and Trump's pick should get a hearing despite what happened with Obama's nominee.

Katko says the priority should be choosing someone with high intellect and integrity and "the rest will sort itself out." But regardless of the decision, he notes that Supreme Court justices don't always stick to liberal or conservative ideologies.

“Don’t forget Justice Kennedy was picked by President Reagan, he was considered to be a conservative, he turned out to be a swing vote on many of the key issues,” Katko said. “So you can predict all you want how someone is going to be on the Supreme Court, but it’s a fool’s errand.”

Trump says he will announce his pick soon.