McConnell: Confirming Trump's judicial picks a 'top priority'
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure MORE (R-Ky.) is prepared to keep the Senate in town through New Year's Eve if necessary to confirm judicial nominations. 

McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that clearing President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE's court picks is his "top priority," no matter how long it takes. 
 
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"We're going to continue to confirm judges all year. The Congress doesn't stop with the elections. It goes until the end of the year. ... I'm processing them as quickly as they come out of the Judiciary Committee," he said, asked how many nominees could be confirmed by the election. 
 
McConnell added that he doesn't "consider the Congress ending until Dec. 31." 
 
Republicans have been confirming judicial nominees for Trump at a frantic pace. 
 
They set a record in December for the most circuit court nominees approved during a president's first year. With 15 appeals judges already confirmed and six more teed up starting next week, they are poised to also set a record for the number confirmed in a president's first two years. 
 
McConnell added that, by appointing and confirming young judges to the court, Republicans are making a "generational change." 
 
"If I have a choice between taking up a particular bill or taking up a circuit court judge, I take up a circuit court judge because I think it makes the longest lasting contribution," he added. 
 
Republican senators have increasingly pointed to their ability to confirm Trump's nominees as a key reason they should keep control of the chamber during November's midterm elections. 
 
But they're also under pressure from conservative senators and allied outside groups to move faster. They want GOP leadership to change the Senate's rules to reduce the amount of debate time required to confirm Trump's nominees by a simple majority. 
 
The proposal from Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority Midterm vote to set cyber agenda The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump divides Republicans ahead of midterms MORE (R-Okla.) would cut the amount of debate time required for most nominations after they've cleared an initial procedural hurdle from 30 hours to only eight hours. 
 
While the rules change wouldn't affect most Cabinet picks, Supreme Court nominees or appeals court nominees, it would further cap debate time for district court judicial picks at two hours. 
 
McConnell supports Lankford's proposal, but hasn't publicly weighed in on bringing it to the floor for a vote or what the threshold for passage would be.