When Is Chuck Schumer up for Re-election? Progressives Press Top Democrat to Commit to Expanding Supreme Court

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has spurred a group of elected officials in New York to urge Sen. Chuck Schumer to "step up to the plate" and publicly support the court's expansion or face a tough fight to keep his Senate seat when he is up for re-election in 2022.

Adding to the chorus of Democrats concerned about the consequences of having the Supreme Court tipped 6-3 in favor of conservatives following the swearing in of Barrett to the lifetime post, is a strongly-worded letter to the Senate minority leader signed by a coalition of 22 progressive New York City and state officials.

The letter called on Schumer to counter the number of "right-wing ideologues" on the country's highest judicial body, which it described as not being an impartial arbiter of whether policies enacted by branches of government were in keeping with the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws.

Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Chuck Schumer at a protest on October 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. New York progressives have called on him to push for an expansion of the Supreme Court. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The missive referred in particular to the most progressive elements of the Affordable Care Act which it said had been "gutted" by the court. "In doing so the court has shown itself unwilling to tolerate even Democrats' most conservative gestures at reform. Any agenda in a potential Biden administration will be doomed to the same fate," the letter said.

"That cannot happen. This court is illegitimate," it said, calling for congressional Democrats to pass legislation to expand the court and that if Joe Biden were to win the election, he "must sign it into law."

It said that should the Democrats take the Senate, as Senate majority leader, Schumer must allow the legislation to get a vote. If this happened, he should "publicly support the expansion of the Supreme Court," whose number was not constitutionally mandated.

"As leader of the Senate Democratic conference, Chuck Schumer needs to step up to the plate...anything less is unacceptable, and we commit to organizing to hold him accountable should he fail to do so," the letter said.

The letter was organized by member-elect of the State Assembly, District 36, Zohran Kwame Mamdani, and signed by him and 21 other officials who included members and members-elect of the State Assembly and the State Senate.

I was proud to organize this letter alongside my @nycDSA comrades & our progressive allies.

This court is illegitimate. We will not stand by while its right-wing fanatics destroy legal abortion, labor power, civil rights & social insurance.@SenSchumer - you can’t either. https://t.co/PTH6BlM6pr

— Zohran Kwame Mamdani (@ZohranKMamdani) October 27, 2020

With Schumer expected to seek a fifth term as New York senator in November 2022, Mamdani told Newsweek that "nothing is off the table" regarding what action the letters' signatories and supporters might take should the senator not push hard enough for a Supreme Court expansion. This could include protests, canvassing, or taking him on at the next election.

"I can tell you quite confidently if this is not something that Senator Schumer brings forward then I would gladly support a challenger on the basis of this issue. That is nothing personal against the Senator, it is simply about increasing the stakes here," he said.

"People might say 'why not wait until after the election?' We have to make very clear that this is an issue even in the midst of everything else that is going on that we are laser focused on, and we need to have representation that understands that," he told Newsweek.

Schumer has pulled no punches in his criticism of the appointment of Barrett telling lawmakers on Monday: "The American people will never forget this blatant act of bad faith." However the letter by the progressives calls for this rhetoric to be backed up by action.

"If Senator Schumer becomes the majority leader and he is in control of what legislation reaches the floor, we need him to advocate for this stance and bring this piece of legislation onto the floor for a vote," Mamdani said.

"If he is the minority leader, we still need him to put this forward as his belief because this is not something that is expedient, this is something that is critical of achieving our goals of dignity across this country," he added. Newsweek has contacted Schumer's office for comment.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has side-stepped the issue of Supreme Court expansion, but did tell CBS News that if elected, he would put together a bipartisan commission to provide recommendations on reforming the Supreme Court.