Democrats Have a Wide Range of Options to Stop Trump’s SCOTUS Pick

A memo is circulating on Capitol Hill that spells out exactly the kind of tactics that could slow Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. Will the Democrats use them?

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer await the arrival of the casket of the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Alex Brandon / Getty Images)

As Donald Trump tries to stack the Supreme Court in the hopes that it will decide the national election, a new memo circulating among activists and Capitol Hill aides details various ways that Democratic lawmakers can try to block a nomination from moving forward.

The document, which appears to have been compiled by people knowledgeable about Senate procedure, emerged after Democratic US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on House and Senate leaders to “use every tool at our disposal” to stop Trump from installing a new justice on the court.

“Much of the broad electorate will want to see Congressional Democrats fighting to protect the Court and their Constitutional rights,” says the memo, which was obtained by the Daily Poster. “Mere capitulation to what Washington insiders see as the inevitable will be viewed by many as abandonment of the Democratic base and could undermine enthusiasm.”

While the memo does not promise victory and makes clear it is not a comprehensive set of options, it asserts that there is “reason to believe that not all potential (delay) options have been thoroughly explored” by congressional Democrats. It then explains some of the tools that could be available to them.

Titled “Safeguarding the Court,” the document outlines nineteen ideas for Senate and House Democrats to consider in an effort to slow down or halt a court nomination.

One set of maneuvers could involve House Democrats using their power to slow down the Senate. For instance, they could have insisted on short-term week-by-week budget bills to grind the process of passing appropriations to a crawl. House speaker Nancy Pelosi had that option, but took it off the table — at least until a lame-duck Congress.

However, House lawmakers could also pass other measures — such as articles of impeachment or War Powers resolutions — that would automatically be prioritized on the Senate schedule under existing rules.

In the Senate itself, the memo says Democratic senators should explore filing so-called fast-track measures that could also take precedent on the Senate schedule and push off a court confirmation vote.

The memo says:

Several fast-track statutes, including the Congressional Budget Act, the Congressional Review Act, the War Powers Act, and the Arms Export Control Act, give any Senator the right to move to proceed to a vehicle and force a roll-call vote and sometimes a period of debate. For example, any Senator could submit a concurrent resolution on the budget, and by precedent, if action has not yet been taken on a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year, then the resolution would be immediately placed on the calendar. Once on the calendar, any Senator could move to proceed to the resolution, forcing a roll-call vote on the motion to proceed. Meanwhile, resolutions of disapproval under the CRA can be petitioned out of committee with 30 signatures after 20 calendar days. Such measures could be filed en masse now.

The memo says another set of powers — yet to be used by Democrats — could invoke the quorum call requirement for any Senate business. That could keep Republican senators trapped in Washington and unable to campaign for reelection in tight races.

“Engaging in dilatory tactics would also likely force [majority leader Mitch] McConnell to keep the entire Republican Conference in the vicinity of the Senate, in order to maintain a quorum and to win various votes,” the memo says. “This might become increasingly untenable because up to a dozen sitting Republicans are defending their seats in close races and will want to return home to campaign — including to participate in debates and other events they will be loath to miss.”