Senate Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer, of New York, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Is Chuck Schumer Too Weak To Lead?

Sen. Chuck Schumer D-NY has announced a planned filibuster in an attempt to stop the vote approving SCOTUS nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. (USA Today):

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made it clear Wednesday that Democrats will filibuster President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, saying it is important that the Colorado judge be “mainstream” enough to appeal to at least some Democrats and attract 60 votes. Under Senate rules, the minority party has the power to insist on a procedural vote known as cloture that requires the approval of 60 senators to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote on a high court nominee. Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate. “We Democrats will insist on a rigorous but fair process,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “There will be 60 votes for confirmation. Any one member can require it. Many Democrats already have, and it is the right thing to do. On a subject as important as a Supreme Court nomination, bipartisan support should be a prerequisite. It should be essential. That’s what 60 votes does.”

Either Sen. Schumer is whipping his members, or he is allowing them to vote their conscience and/or political necessity. This is the definition of “whip” per Wikipedia:

The expression whip in its parliamentary context has its origins in hunting terminology. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term whipper-in as, “a huntsman’s assistant who keeps the hounds from straying by driving them back with the whip into the main body of the pack”. According to that dictionary, the first recorded use of the term whipper-in in the parliamentary sense occurs in 1772. However, P. D. G. Thomas in House of Commons in the Eighteenth Century cites two examples of the use of the term that pre-date 1772.  It was within the context of such summonses to members out of town that the first known Parliamentary instance of the use of the term “whip” occurred. In the debate of 8 May 1769 on a petition from some Middlesex freeholders against the seating of Henry Luttrell instead of John Wilkes, Edmund Burke mentioned that the ministry had sent for their friends to the north and to Paris, “whipping them in, than which, he said, there could not be a better phrase”.

When the leader along with senior members decides to “whip” their members, they can use threats, political inducements, or call in favors. Regardless of their method, the whole idea about whipping their members is to get the required vote count. If leadership cannot successfully whip their members, they should be and would be considered too weak to continue in their leadership roles.

If Sen. Schumer is indeed whipping this vote, then why did this article appear yesterday in The Hill:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is signaling that he could buck Democratic leadership and help President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. “I am not inclined to filibuster, even though I’m not inclined to vote for him,” Leahy — a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee — told a Vermont news outlet.

Sen. Leahy D-VT is not chopped liver. He is a senior ranking Democrat both in the party and in the Senate. Even as importantly, he is a former Judiciary Committee Chairman.

Inside of a high octane scenario such as the upcoming SCOTUS vote, one with 360 degree visibility, if Schumer really were whipping this vote, then the MSM would be rabid with the Leahy defection. The far left would be foaming at the mouth issuing threats and promises to primary. Mika would be sighing and acting like she had just been overcome by the vapors. CNN would die happy being able to issue “Breaking News” alert banners every hour on the hour.

But strangely, none of that is happening. Its not happening to Sen. Leahy, or to Sen. Manchin (Roll Call)

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III on Monday became the first Democratic senator to commit to at least voting for limiting debate on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Manchin’s office confirmed the senator announced he would vote to limit debate on President Donald Trump’s nomination of the federal appeals court judge for the seat vacated by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, even if Manchin ultimately decides against voting for final confirmation.

What is so curious is the fact neither of these two senators really need to vote against Sen. Schumer. Sure, Sen. Manchin would face some heat back home if he supported Schumer over Trump. But would it mean his downfall? Probably not. To say that Sen. Leahy’s position is safe is a gross understatement. Regardless of his vote, the Vermont liberal is going to be reelected until he retires. There are at least 8-10 Democratic senators that could be in jeopardy if they backed Schumer’s announced filibuster. You can imagine that conversation:

“So Chuck, let’s see…you allowed Patrick and Joe to go off the reservation and vote against you even though they are safe at home, but you’re asking me to risk my seat supporting you? Come on Chuck you know better than that, go get their vote then come back to me if, and only if you absolutely need my vote.”

This fact is bankable; if a senior Democrat such as Sen. Leahy is even publicly considering a vote against Minority Leader Schumer, and if Sen. Joe Manchin is already on record as a no vote in support of the filibuster, Democratic leadership is not serious about whipping this vote. Sen. Schumer is just too wily to allow his name and reputation to be attached to a failing effort especially so early into his tenure in the leadership seat. Failure on this scale would render a leader far too weak to lead, and the questions surrounding just how weak he is, and the process stories of his failure would dominate for at least one or two press cycles.

It is another effort by the MSM to paint Democrats in the best light possible all the while rejecting intellectual honesty whole cloth. It is the height of cognitive dissonance to both trumpet Schumer’s whip efforts while at the same time downplaying what could only be construed as out and out rebellion.

This is another situation where Schumer talks tough but that’s just what it is, talk.



About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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