WASHINGTON (CN) — A day after receiving a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday he misspoke when he said Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they voted to uphold state restrictions on abortion.
“I’m from Brooklyn, we speak in strong language,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. “I shouldn’t have used the words I did, but in no way was I making a threat. I never — never — would do such a thing.”
Speaking in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon following arguments in a closely watched challenge to a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, Schumer detailed Republican efforts to restrict abortion access at the state level before pointing to the court and addressing the two Trump-appointed justices directly.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price,” Schumer said, to cheers from gathered abortion rights advocates. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Roberts issued a rare statement criticizing Schumer, saying his remarks are “not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”
“All members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter,” the chief justice said.
In explaining his comments Thursday, Schumer said they “did not come out the way” he intended them to. He explained he meant to say there would be “political consequences” for elected Republicans if the Trump appointees on the high court ruled with the conservative majority to uphold state restrictions on abortion.
The New York Democrat cast the remarks in the context of anger he said he shares with women across the country about conservative efforts to curb access to abortion.
“So yes, I am angry,” Schumer said. “The women of America are angry. And yes, we will continue to fight for a woman’s right to choose. I will continue to fight for the women of America.”
Schumer spoke shortly after his Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, took to the Senate floor and excoriated him for the comments, calling them dangerous in an already charged political climate.
“At the very best, his comments were astonishingly reckless and completely irresponsible,” the Kentucky Republican said. “And clearly, as the chief justice stated in a rare and extraordinary rebuke, they were ‘dangerous.’ Because no matter the intention, words carrying the apparent threat of violence can have horrific unintended consequences.”