(Adds Schumer quotes, background)
WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said on Wednesday the Senate should reject any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Donald Trump who would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision or “undermine” healthcare protections.
In a speech on the Senate floor shortly after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he was retiring, Schumer said, “The Senate should reject on a bipartisan basis any justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade, undermine key healthcare protections.” Schumer said.
Kennedy’s plan to retire after three decades as a pivotal vote on the highest U.S. judicial body gives Trump an opportunity to make the court more firmly conservative.
Under Trump, Justice Neil Gorsuch was appointed last year after the president’s fellow Republicans in the Senate in 2016 refused to consider former Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, until after November elections that year.
Schumer called on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to follow the same path this year, since elections in November this year will determine who holds one-third of the chamber’s 100 seats.
“Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy,” Schumer said. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
“This is the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation. Nothing less than the fate of our healthcare system, reproductive rights for women and countless other protections for middle class Americans are at stake,” Schumer said.
“Will Republicans and President Trump nominate and vote for someone who will preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions, or will they support a justice who will put health insurance companies over patients, or put the federal government between a woman and her doctor,” Schumer said.
He said that “Americans should make it clear” they will not tolerate any nominee from Trump’s list of possible Supreme Court candidates. (Reporting by Richard Cowan; Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech and Cynthia Osterman)