I don’t like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s politics. He’s the worst kind of Republican, one who will sacrifice conservative values and push a moderate agenda whenever he possibly can. He has attacked conservative candidates and helped fill the Senate with milquetoast moderates who won’t act boldly against abortion, Obamacare, or the border wall.
With that said, his management of the Senate through important confirmations has been spectacular. He has leveraged his skill as a political strategist to make vulnerable Democrats choose: confirm President Trump’s nominees for the judiciary quickly or skip out on valuable campaigning time.
Democrats chose the former. They felt they needed the last three weeks before the election to hit the campaign trail and try to save their seats. As a result, he’s been able to push through more judges in President Trump’s first two years than anyone else through the past five administrations.
He might be a squish, but he was able to play hardball when it was needed. As botched as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process was, none of the challenges can be laid at his feet. He got Neil Gorsuch through relatively easily. On top of that, he infused the circuit courts with 28 right-leaning judges and the district courts with 53.
Compared that to the 22 he allowed through in President Obama’s final two years and the only conclusion is that McConnell has been a good steward when it comes to the courts.
“Lose the Senate and the project of confirming judges is over for the last two years for President Trump,” McConnell said in an interview with NPR. “That, I think, is a scary prospect to the people who like what we’ve been doing on the judge project and I hope will help us hold on to our majority.”
Republicans have had success with judicial nominees in large part because of a rule change by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 2013. Frustrated by GOP efforts to block Obama nominees, he changed the threshold to end debate and allow confirmation votes on federal court judges from 60 votes to 51.
Of course, one could say former Senator Harry Reid is the real hero. If he hadn’t opened up the confirmation process by dropping the threshold from 60 to 51, we wouldn’t have had half the judges confirmed this session. We also wouldn’t have Gorsuch or Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court.
Thank you, Mitch, for being a good manager and thank you, Harry, for being short-sighted.