Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that Democrats will not supply a quorum with which to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Schumer defended this move, saying that Barrett’s nomination is “illegitimate, dangerous and unpopular.”
There’s no point debating Schumer on these partisan claims. The question is whether the Democrats can block Barrett’s nomination through this ploy.
I don’t think they can. A quorum in the full Senate is 51 members. In the Judiciary Committee it’s nine members including two from the minority party.
A quorum in the full Senate won’t be a problem for the GOP and Barrett unless a few Republican Senators get sick and can’t make it for the vote. However, Democrats have the ability to prevent a quorum in the Judiciary Committee. A boycott would deny one there.
However, Republicans could work around this pretty easily. Fox News explains:
[T]he Senate can vote on a discharge resolution that would remove the responsibility of considering the Barrett nomination from the committee, allowing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the nomination for a full vote. The committee itself could also change its rules to get rid of the requirement that two Democrats be present.
Schumer may hope that these moves would be unpopular and thus that forcing McConnell to make one of them would help the Democrats politically. My guess is that boycotting the Judiciary Committee hearing would be more unpopular than working around the Democrats’ obstruction.
Schumer may also be laying the groundwork for enlarging the Supreme Court, if Joe Biden wins and the Dems gain control of the Senate. His argument would be that the extraordinary measure of court packing is justified because of the extraordinary means Republicans used to get Barrett confirmed.
I doubt that this argument would move the needle on court packing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t part of Schumer’s calculations.
What’s clear is that, as they have in the past, the Democrats are breaking new ground in the judicial wars. To my knowledge, neither party has tried to block the confirmation of a judge or Justice by a boycott. Doing so presents a sorry spectacle.