News & Politics

Citing Rising Political Violence, Hawley Moves to Censure Schumer Over Threats to Gorsuch, Kavanaugh

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions Attorney General William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

On Thursday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a resolution to censure Senate Minority Leader Chuch Schumer (D-N.Y.) over his threat against Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Fourteen other senators cosponsored his resolution, which warns about the uptick in political violence and condemns Schumer “in the strongest possible terms.”

On Wednesday, Schumer threatened Gorsuch and Kavanaugh by name in an apparent attempt to bully them into a pro-abortion ruling in a case currently before the Supreme Court.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer told a crowd of abortion activists in front of the Supreme Court. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made a rare public statement condemning Schumer’s remarks. “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,” he wrote. “All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”

Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman accused Roberts of misinterpreting the senator’s remarks, insisting that the Democratic leader only intended to threaten Republicans, not Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

“Sen. Schumer’s comments were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision,” Goodman claimed. “For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.”

Yet Roberts has condemned Trump’s comments about judges as well, and Schumer warned Gorsuch and Kavanaugh by name, not Senate Republicans.

Hawley’s resolution also addresses the remarks as a threat. The resolution condemns the statement as “an attempt to unduly influence the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States and to undermine the vision of the founders of the United States of the ‘complete independence of the courts of justice.'”

“[T]he statements of Senator Schumer could be read to suggest a threat or call for physical violence against 2 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the resolution states. “[A]ccording to the Institute for Economics and Peace, political violence in the United States has increased over the last decade.”

Hawley’s resolution noted that the U.S. Marshals Service investigated “4,542 threats and inappropriate communications against the judiciary” in 2018 alone and that four federal judges have been targeted and murdered since 1979.

“Senator Schumer has acknowledged that threatening statements can increase the dangers of violence against government officials when he stated on June 15, 2017, following the attempted murder of several elected Members of Congress, ‘We would all be wise to reflect on the importance of civility in our [N]ation’s politics’ and that ‘the level of nastiness, vitriol, and hate that has seeped into our politics must be excised.'”

Therefore, the Senate “(1) censures and condemns in the strongest possible terms the Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer, for his threatening statements against Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh; and (2) calls on all members of the Senate to respect the independence of the Federal judiciary.”

In addition to Hawley, Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) are all original cosponsors of the resolution.

In this time of political violence, where representatives have been shot at on the baseball field, it is important for both Republicans and Democrats to condemn threats like this.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.