Congressional Democrats responded to three major 5-4 Supreme Court decisions this week that went against them with vehement criticism, including one lawmaker who deemed the court “an arm of the Republican Party.”
The Janus v. AFSCME ruling handed down Wednesday, which could fundamentally change how public sector unions operate, is the third this week to be decided by the court’s conservative majority. Those decisions have led to Democrats in Congress bemoaning the court’s political swing, even before Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire, where President Donald Trump will presumably pick a more conservative justice to replace Kennedy, considered a key swing vote.
Rep. Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, said before the Kennedy decision that this week shows that “the Supreme Court is no longer a judicial body,” but rather “an arm of the Republican Party.”
“Whether you’re talking about voting rights… gerrymandering… unions, civil rights, in the case of the Washington court case on the right to not do business with LGBT people,” Smith told reporters, adding, “every decision they’ve made has simply been a rubber stamp for the Republican agenda.”
Smith is joined in his criticism of the court’s “Republican agenda” by many other Democrats in Congress.
“Instead of applying clear legal precedent and practical reasoning to uphold the rights of public-sector unions, the court’s conservatives have sought to dismantle them by violating decades of legal precedent,” said Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia in a press release.
Janus, according to Rep. Denny Heck of Washington, reflects the court’s subservience to “the flawed position of special interests with deep pockets who are dedicated to destroying organized labor.” Rep. Keith Ellison, of Minnesota, added the decision is a victory only for “the wealthy Republican donors and dark money groups,” who together have spent “more than $17 billion” to “steal” a seat on the Court.
The language of a “stolen seat” was echoed by Rep. David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, who called the decision “an unprecedented attack” on public employees throughout the country. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey also accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of using “political games … to steal Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in April 2017 to fill the vacancy left by the late Antonin Scalia, is often the target of scathing criticism by congressional Democrats.
“With Justice Gorsuch further slanting the bench toward a conservative ideology, the Supreme Court has failed to serve as a check on Trump, it has failed to protect women, it has failed to block minority voter suppression, it has failed to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, and it has failed again today,” Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York said in a press release Tuesday.
Rep. Judy Chu, of California pinned the blame of the NIFLA v. Becerra decision, which is largely perceived to bolster the anti-abortion rights movement, on Gorsuch. In a statement, she called the ruling “another consequence of President Trump nominating Justice Gorsuch, an anti-reproductive health extremist, to the Supreme Court.”
Gorsuch, with Justices Samuel Alito, Kennedy, John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, comprised the majority in all three cases decided this week.