If you think Democratic senators were scandalous during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the despicable actions seen then would prove to be but a warm up for what could occur in 2020.
One thing we do know, courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is if an opening occurs on the high court in 2020, a presidential election year, the nominee appointed by President Donald Trump would go before the Senate for confirmation.
A position that’s in stark contrast to McConnell’s position in 2016, when he refused to hold confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
At the time, McConnell said voters in the presidential election should get to decide on who filled the opening, given that Obama was essentially a lame duck president riding out his second, final term.
But when asked Tuesday at a Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky on where he would stand if a Supreme Court justice died next year, after a dramatic pause to take a sip of his beverage, McConnell smiles and said, “Oh, we’d fill it.”
As furious as Democrats were in 2016, Tuesday’s remark amounts to some big league trolling from “Cocaine Mitch.”
McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, would later stress that the difference between now and then is that the White House was controlled by a Democrat and the Senate by Republicans in 2016, while both are controlled by the GOP today.
“McConnell has conveyed this reasoning several times — the decision not to consider Garland’s nomination was because the Senate was held by a different party than the president leading into an election. His answer Tuesday is consistent with that claim,” Popp tweeted in response to an NBC article.
McConnell has conveyed this reasoning several times — the decision not to consider Garland’s nomination was because the Senate was held by a different party than the president leading into an election. His answer Tuesday is consistent with that claim. https://t.co/9JydIEyYdZ
— David Popp (@davidpopp) May 29, 2019
It’s clear that the Republican lawmaker has a keen understanding of the importance of the judiciary in shaping this country’s future and has worked hard in Trump’s first two years to confirm 107 Article III judges nominated by the president, which includes two Supreme Court justices, 40 judges for the U.S. Courts of Appeals and 65 judges for the U.S. District Courts.
The Congressional Research Service said that McConnell has overseen the greatest number of appeals court nominees confirmed by the Senate in the first two years of any presidency since it started tracking the data.
These are lifetime appointments, which McConnell touched on at Tuesday’s luncheon.
“I remember during the tax bill, people were agonizing over whether one part of the tax bill was permanent or not,” McConnell said. “I said, ‘Look, the only way the tax bill is permanent depends on the next election.’ Because people have different views about taxes in the two parties and they approach it differently when they get in power.”
“What can’t be undone is a lifetime appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of the judge is to follow the law,” he would continue. “That’s the most important thing we’ve done in the country, which cannot be undone.”
In fact, with an assist from McConnell, Trump has flipped the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from a Democrat-appointed majority to a Republican one.
According to Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution, they have “strengthened Republican-appointee majorities on four courts that already had such majorities those of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th circuits.”
Appellant judges have been a priority all along for the administration.
PBS reported that when Trump took office, Obama had left more than 100 vacancies to fill in the lower courts, including 17 in the U.S. courts of appeals.
“They are the ones that judge all your disputes,” Trump said in a March 2018 speech. “They judge on what’s fair on the environment and what’s not fair.”
“I don’t know why Obama left that,” he added. “It was like a big, beautiful present to all of us.”
In the end, Trump’s legacy will very likely be his impact on the courts, as will Mitch McConnell’s.
“McConnell knows that from a legacy point of view, from a view of center-right America, this is the most important thing you can do,” his former chief of staff Josh Holmes said.
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