Even while riding the high of his party’s dead-of-night tax victory, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) still wouldn’t call the GOP’s $1.5 trillion “gift to the rich” the crowning achievement of his career. That honor, McConnell told Bloomberg in an interview, remains with “Neil Gorsuch and the changes we’re making in the circuit courts.”
“But this would be a really close second,” McConnell said, referring to the tax legislation.
Matt Fuller, politics reporter for the Huffington Post, helpfully translated McConnell’s remarks:
Yeah, tax reform is cool and all, but blocking Merrick Garland and stealing a Supreme Court seat to no electoral consequences is really my greatest legislative achievement, too. https://t.co/eH5NIisz1F
—Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) December 20, 2017
This “achievement” has its origins in 2016, when McConnell refused to even consider Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s selection to replace the deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Having successfully deprived Obama of a Supreme Court pick—a move critics denounced as outright “theft”—earlier this year McConnell deployed the so-called “nuclear option” to ram President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, through a Democratic filibuster and ensure that Democrats could not block future nominees.
Now that the Supreme Court seat he kept vacant is securely in Republican control, McConnell has turned his attention to confirming Trump’s lower court nominees—and he’s moving at a breakneck pace.
Last week, Senate Republicans “confirmed President Donald Trump’s twelfth federal appeals court nominee, setting a record for the most circuit court picks confirmed in a president’s first year,” reports Axios‘s Khorri Atkinson.
While the McConnell’s effort to stack the judiciary with right-wing extremists who lack experience and basic legal knowledge often flies under the radar of the day-to-day chaos of the Trump presidency, it could have an impact decades down the line—even if the GOP is voted out of office.
“The federal courts carry significant weight in almost every area of policy: gun rights, executive power, LGBT rights, freedom of religion, etc, and have blocked multiple Trump initiatives in his first year,” Atkinson concludes. “Trump’s picks of young, conservative judges for the lifetime appointments will far outlast his presidency.”
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