WASHINGTON — Democratic New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer is making no secret that he's preparing to do what's necessary to make sure the Supreme Court tilts to the left next year.
"My No. 1 goal, should I become majority leader with your help, is to get a progressive Supreme Court," he told a policy conference hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network on Wednesday morning.
"A progressive majority on the Supreme Court is an imperative, and if I become majority leader, I will make it happen," Schumer said. "I will make it happen."
Since the 2016 Senate electoral map would likely only yield Democrats a narrow majority under their most optimistic circumstances, the comments are an early indication that Schumer could be open to making procedural changes to enable confirmation of a more outwardly progressive Supreme Court nominee.
Under current precedents, Supreme Court nominations still require 60 votes to overcome filibuster threats, since they were not included in the changes pushed through by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid in November 2013.
"This community knows better than any other how important the progressive Supreme Court is," Schumer told the African-American audience.
"When the Congress turned its back on this community — Democrats and Republicans — there was only one group that stood firm, and that was the U.S. Supreme Court," Schumer said.
The office building in which Schumer was speaking was named for Richard Russell, a Georgia Democrat and leading opponent of civil rights.
Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, on Tuesday said that he was going to invoke a provision of the Senate's rules to curtail the amount of committee business that may take place.
The move came as the latest protest of the Senate GOP's agenda, and the decision not to take up the confirmation of Merrick Garland, selected in March by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.
In an interview with the New York Times over the August recess, Reid suggested that a new Democratic majority (led by Schumer) may need to ponder further cutting down on filibusters.
Reid said if Republicans were to lose the majority and not change course on the use of delay tactics, "the Senate is going to have to wind up being a democracy."
During his remarks, Schumer criticized Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., particularly for the Supreme Court's decision to upend preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
"One of the first things he did is eviscerate the Voting Rights Act," Schumer said. "I sometimes wake up at night wondering what these Supreme Court justices are thinking."
But, he predicted that the Shelby County decision on voting rights would be overturned by a Supreme Court with the kind of progressive justices he would prioritize confirming as majority leader.
"I know that the NAACP legal defense and all of the other funds will go right to that court and it is my belief, based on reading of the law, that the Supreme Court's decision will be reversed," Schumer said.