Answer: Only on a slow news day. The Supreme Court heard arguments today in a contentious abortion-restriction law in Louisiana, one of a likely string of challenges they’ll hear as states probe the new SCOTUS lineup to see how far it will go to roll back Roe and/or Casey. This gave the activists on both sides a chance to demonstrate for their cause, including Chuck Schumer, who can be seen in this video going the full Nicolas Cage to impress his audience.
Bear in mind when you watch this short clip that, in the immortal words of Peter Venkman, nobody choosed nothing yet:
Did Senate Democrat leader Schumer just threaten two conservative justices? Where is the media?
“I want to tell you Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch: You have unleashed a whirlwind, and you will pay the price”pic.twitter.com/MellytNNp5
— Mark Meadows (@MarkMeadows) March 4, 2020
SCHUMER: They’re taking away fundamental rights. 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!
We’ll get back to the main question in a moment, but let’s provide some context first. Today’s session was oral arguments on June Medical Services v Russo, challenging a state law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their location. The Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016 in Whole Women’s Health v Hellerstedt on a 5-3 decision.
So is this appeal an attempt to reverse Whole Women’s Health? Not exactly; this appeal was brought by the abortion providers, who lost when the appellate court avoided the earlier precedent and ruled that the time frame provided by Louisiana in its law made it relatively easy for clinics to comply. If the Supreme Court wanted to keep the law in place, they could have just denied cert. Instead, John Roberts initially joined the liberal wing to suspend the Louisiana law, and then voted in favor of its review by the full court.
In other words, this is the last opportunity to discard the law, not put it back in place. The hearing itself was held to benefit the side on which Schumer stands.
Want a little more context? Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had little to do with this, and in fact Gorsuch never even asked a single question:
Another closely watched questioner Wednesday was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member and replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been a key vote for preserving abortion rights.
Justice Kavanaugh questioned the challengers’ argument that an abortion law requiring admitting privileges would never be valid, and he asked what would happen if abortion providers were more easily able to obtain such privileges. …
Justice Gorsuch didn’t speak during Wednesday’s argument.
With all that context, people can come to the correct conclusion, which is that Chuck Schumer is a hopeless windbag demagogue rather than a serious person worthy of public trust. It may very well turn out that the court narrows its Whole Women’s Health ruling to allow for legislatures to define public-health requirements for abortion clinics; it’s just as possible that they will end up affirming Whole Women’s Health. One thing’s for sure, which is that the Supreme Court hasn’t yet done anything with this case yet except hear arguments. And the only reason they did that much was because the abortion providers demanded it.
Now, let’s get back to the original question: was anything Schumer said a threat? Come on, man. “You won’t know what hit you” is a rhetorical device relating to the politics of the issue; it’s not a threat, not in the Brandenburg sense and not in any realistic sense either. No one really thinks that pasty senior-citizen Schumer was physically threatening anyone, do they?
Even as a political threat, it’s empty talk. Schumer can’t do a damned thing about their decisions, and both he and they know it. It’s the kind of mindless hackery that has to arise from time to time to remind us of the value of lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Those reminders don’t come around often, so enjoy them while you can.
Addendum: Cage did it better in Vampire’s Kiss, Chuck.
Addendum II: In anticipation of the “what if a Republican had said this” argument, let me assure you that I have read my contract, and I am not required to lose my mind every time a Democrat loses theirs. Your contract may vary. Void where prohibited.
Update: Well, it appears Chief Justice John Roberts disagrees with me about “threatening.” He is not amused:
NEW: Chief Justice Roberts chastises Schumer for "threatening" statements about Kavanaugh, Gorsuch. pic.twitter.com/jQWHJTfpks
— Greg Stohr (@GregStohr) March 4, 2020