Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer drew the ire of grassroots supporters Monday night after failing to show up at a town hall meeting in his home state of New York.
Schumer blamed plane troubles – which the event’s organizers questioned – and the senior New York senator ended up video conferencing in even as his some constituents, some of whom were there for hours, sat in a sweltering Brooklyn synagogue waiting him out. A number of those waiting were from the group Indivisible, a grassroots activist group.
According to event organizers, the town hall was planned for the past year.
“Senator Schumer has not held a face to face town hall in years, and with so much at stake, from the Supreme Court vacancy to the crisis at our borders, we need to hear from him in person. Phoning it in isn’t acceptable. We demand a real town hall in New York City,” said Liat Olenik, co-president of Indivisible Nation BK in a statement.
But his plane troubles weren’t the only problem. It was his message to constituents that has them fired up.
Organizers were expecting a full plan of attack from the top Senate Democrat to thwart the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
But Schumer insisted on a play for "unity" among Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to raise the stakes on two key issues: Roe v Wade, and the Affordable Care Act, both of which could be impacted by Trump's nominee.
Schumer also asked the activists to spend less time “prodding Democrats to use their limited procedural power to delay a Supreme Court confirmation.”
A source close to the senator says Schumer believes seeking to delay the confirmation vote is “not good enough.”
“We need victory and that only comes by getting one or two Republicans to oppose the nominee,” the source said of Schumer’s strategy.
Schumer’s plan of action, seemingly, is to remind constituents what’s at stake and to put the pressure on the moderate Republicans (Murkowski and Collins) and centrist Democrats (Donnelly, Manchin, and Heitkamp), who hold all the cards in the confirmation of the next Supreme Court justice.
He laid it out in a New York Times op-ed published Monday.
“While the number of Democrats in the Senate is not a majority, the number of senators who believe in protections for those with pre-existing conditions and women’s reproductive rights is a majority of the Senate,” Schumer wrote. “Given this vacancy, the best way to defend those rights is for a bipartisan majority in the Senate to lock arms and reject a Supreme Court nominee who would overturn them. It will not happen on its own. It requires the public’s focus on these issues and its pressure on the Senate.”
Schumer has a point – Democrats are in all likelihood out of procedural options when it comes to blocking Trump’s nominee after Republicans got rid of the filibuster last year for SCOTUS nominees.
Following the town hall, Schumer tweeted that he “enjoyed lively conversation” and that he "heard" his constituents concerns and “felt their passion despite being stuck at the airport in Utica.”
But it’s clear his constituents were looking for more fight from the Democratic leader.
“Whip the vote,” they chanted, “Whip the vote.”