McConnell’s gambit to save the Supreme Court paid off
© Greg Nash

Wonder of wonders, we are praising Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE.

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For anyone who knows McConnell’s feelings toward the tea party, that may sound odd. Praise from a tea party leader? But we at Tea Party Patriots abide by a hard-and-fast rule: When political leaders do the right thing, we stand by them. Even if they don’t like us.

 

The fast pace of politics often has a way of dulling the public’s memory of history. In fact, it is difficult today to remember the exact circumstances and events that unfolded last year to lead us to this moment in time, in which President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE’s nominee to the Supreme Court is sitting for his confirmation hearing. But the precise circumstances are worth revisiting.

In the days immediately following Justice Antonin Scalia’s tragic passing last February, it was not at all a foregone conclusion that we would be here today with a Republican president’s Supreme Court nominee being considered in the Senate. It was widely presumed that President Obama would fill the seat. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had other ideas.

Within hours of learning of the revered justice’s passing, without bothering to consult his pollster, McConnell acted decisively by declaring that Scalia’s seat would remain vacant until after the presidential election in November. That way, as he and other Republican senators argued, Americans could have a say in the decision.

Democrats and the media went crazy. Cries of “theft” were heard throughout the land as the left demanded that McConnell break with almost a century of Senate tradition to confirm a new Supreme Court justice nominated in the last year of a presidency – even though many Democrat senators had publicly opposed the possible confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice nominated in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency.

McConnell stood firm. He knew what was at stake.

The November elections shocked the political class. Very few within the Washington establishment thought Donald Trump had even the remotest chance of winning the White House. He was behind in fundraising, his campaign was floundering, and he was down in the polls in nearly every state that mattered right up until Election Day. And then he won.

Political pollsters, chagrined by their massive failure to predict Trump’s victory, have since explained that they grossly underestimated Trump’s appeal with working-class Americans. Sure, that is undoubtedly true. But the pollsters also greatly underestimated the importance of the Supreme Court in general, and this vacant seat in particular.

CNN’s exit poll confirms the importance of this Supreme Court vacancy on the minds of voters. Fully 69 percent of voters ranked Supreme Court nominations as “the most important factor” or “an important factor” in their decision on election day.

A common definition of political courage is doing the right thing even when it would be so much easier to do the wrong thing, and especially when doing the right thing is politically risky. Sen. McConnell held the Supreme Court seat open in a gutsy and bold move that Americans rewarded. Not only did the GOP retain control of both houses of Congress, they also picked up the presidency – and with it, the right to name a new justice to fill the vacancy left by Justice Scalia’s untimely passing. 

McConnell’s political wager paid off.

Had it not been for his swift and decisive action, we would not be here. As Americans learn more about Judge Neil Gorsuch, there is a growing confidence that he is the exact person who should fill Justice Scalia’s seat.

The confirmation hearing has revealed Judge Gorsuch’s brilliance as a constitutionalist, as well as the brilliance of President Trump’s choice. Americans should also remember the brilliance of McConnell’s strategy, and thank him that we even have the opportunity to honor Scalia’s legacy with someone who, in so many ways, fits his mold. 

 Jenny Beth Martin is the chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.