Opinion: Senator Chuck Schumer’s lame Brooklyn excuse

Brooklyn is known for many things, but it should not be known as Senator Charles Schumer’s lame excuse for threatening two Supreme Court Justices.

Last week, outside the Supreme Court at an event hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Schumer said, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

That day the Court was hearing oral arguments in a case regarding who can perform abortions in Louisiana. Specifically, the Supreme Court will decide whether a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital is constitutional. A lower federal court ruled that this law does not create an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion and is therefore permitted. The Supreme Court now has the final word.

Of course, Americans and elected officials will have different opinions about how the Court should decide cases, especially ones about abortion rights. However, for a leader of the legislature to directly threaten members of another branch of government is outrageous.

Schumer’s logic for his harsh words is “I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language.” He should not use Brooklyn as an excuse for his clear mistake. As a long time political science professor from Brooklyn, I believe there is no excuse for the disrespect Schumer demonstrated for the two most important principles of our government — separation of powers, and checks and balances. 

The Senate Minority Leader then dug himself deeper in excuse making by saying, “Of course I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political…consequences for the Supreme Court.” This makes no sense. Any first-year government student knows that there are no “political” consequences for a Supreme Court Justice that makes decisions one disagrees with because they are appointed for life after being nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In a rare public statement of rebuke, Chief Justice John Roberts appropriately responded by saying, “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.” 

The Senate is now considering passing a resolution censuring Schumer for his remarks, which would make him just the ninth U.S. Senator in our history to meet this fate. If this happens, Senator Schumer has only himself to blame — not Brooklyn.

Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democratic elected officials, and has been a professor of political science for over 15 years. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano.