“What is the point of being in the Senate for as long as our Senators have been there, of knowing the rules so deeply, of having this much power, if not to throw sand in the gears of this illegitimate process so that Trump cannot appoint a justice who will decide our fate for generations to come?”
In the opening volley of what is sure to be an intense battle over the United States Supreme Court seat vacated by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hundreds of Rhode Islanders rallied in front of the offices of Senator Jack Reed and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on Sunday, calling on them to take every procedural action possible to grind the Senate to a halt and block Republican attempts to confirm a Trump appointment to the Supreme Court.
“This is not a test. Everything we hold dear is on the chopping block, and we are counting on our Senators to do whatever it takes to block this illegitimate seizure of our courts by a GOP minority that hasn’t won a democratic majority in years,” said former Rhode Island state representative Aaron Regunberg. “Democrats need to literally shut the Senate down – and we want Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse to know that Rhode Islanders will be with them 100% when they do.”
Democrats lack a Senate majority, but that does not mean they are powerless to fight a Republican confirmation process. The Senate runs on the unanimous consent system – to do its most basic business, all senators must consent. That means, protestors argued, that Senate Democrats have the power to grind the chamber to a halt by withholding unanimous consent on every motion that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes, so that even the adoption of the journal of proceedings from the previous day becomes an hours-long chore. Senate Democrats can enforce a Senate rule barring committees from meeting past the first two hours of the day, they can force the reading of every bill aloud (which can be hundreds or even thousands of pages long), and they can block the budget outright to delay a confirmation vote until after Inauguration Day.
A dozen Rhode Island organizations spanning the length of the Democratic Party’s ideological spectrum came together to deliver this message on Sunday, including Rhode Island Working Families Party, the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, Sunrise Providence, Gen Z: We Want to Live, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Providence DSA, Climate Action RI, Reclaim RI, PROV X, One Gun Gone, and Young Democrats of Rhode Island. Many representatives from these groups spoke about how they had supported Senators Reed and Whitehouse in the past, and now they were counting on them to follow through on their commitments to stand up for Rhode Islanders.
“They have tools at their disposal,” said Aaron Regunberg. “What is the point of being in the Senate for as long as our Senators have been there, of knowing the rules so deeply, of having this much power, if not to throw sand in the gears of this illegitimate process so that Trump cannot appoint a justice who will decide our fate for generations to come?”
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“As a DACA recipient, it is hard to mourn without fear, and it is easy to fall into despair,” said immigration activist and local Dreamer Rodrigo Pimental. “After all, so much is at stake for so many of us. But the ultimate arbiters of what is just isn’t the Court. It’s we the people, and we the people demand justice, now and in November.”
“In the last election, for the first time in our history, we allowed male candidates such as Senator Jack Reed to seek our recommended support,” said Liz Gledhill, Chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus. “Our endorsement committee identified Senator Reed as someone who allied with our mission, and someone we could put our trust in. Today, we are calling on Senator Reed to honor the faith our members put in him by doing everything in his power to prevent a Supreme Court Justice nomination from coming to the Senate floor less than two months from the Presidential election. Justice Ginsburg’s dying words, dictated to her granddaughter were, ‘My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.’ We must fight to honor that dying wish.”
Ariel Tavares organizer with Reclaim RI:
The march from Burnside Park to Senator Whitehouse’s office:
“My family survived an authoritarian government. My grandmother died in the arms of my father.,” said Susnna, an organizer with the youth climate activist group Sunrise Movement. “If my father did not fight to survive, I would not be standing here today. I don’t want the people of the United States to have to face the kinds of choices that my family had to make. Senator Whitehouse, 11 days ago you yourself said, ‘It is very important that in the highest offices in the country people stand up and push back.’ We, the people, stand with you to push back against President Trump and Mitch McConnell. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, our lives are on the line. We will not back down and we expect that you will not back down.”
Jared Golstein, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Roger Williams University:
“To Senator Whitehouse and Senator Reed, the same way that the Young Democrats have supported you in the past, we are now asking you to support us – all of us – in stopping a Supreme Court appointment until after a new president takes office,” said Heidi Silverio, President of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island. “Only together can we succeed. Solo juntos somos exitosos!”
March from Senator Whitehouse’s office to the office of Senator Reed:
Tiara Mack, who recently won the Democratic Primary for State Senate, District 6 in Providence:
Brooklyn Toussaint with PROV X:
Kinverly Dicupe with the Providence Democratic Socialists of America: