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Juan Williams: McConnell’s hypocrisy on the courts

Greg Nash

What is making Mitch McConnell run like crazy?

Last month McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority leader, blocked a Senate vote on a House bill to expand early voting.

In that case — Democracy be damned — he was running from the GOP fear that more Democrats might vote.

Last week, McConnell ran past another flashing red light.

He went “nuclear” by ditching more than two centuries of U.S. Senate rules to reduce the time senators have to consider federal district court judges and other Trump administration nominees from 30 hours to two hours.

{mosads}He has also run over a century of Senate tradition by ending the “blue slip” practice of allowing senators to shut down nominations for the federal bench in their home state.

Tell us why, senator.

McConnell said Democrats are to blame for the fact that he is running over them because they are guilty of “unprecedented obstruction” of President Trump’s judges and executive branch nominees.

Say what?

The fact is that the Senate has confirmed more judges for Trump during his first two years in the White House than any other president in more than 50 years.

McConnell has bragged about his success in getting 37 Trump nominees for the appellate courts confirmed in two years. That is far higher rate for confirmations than any previous president. In his entire 8 years in office President Obama got Senate confirmation for 55 appellate court judges.

But there’s another fact – McConnell’s hypocrisy.

It was McConnell who used the old rules to set a record for obstruction by blocking 79 of President Obama’s nominees in Obama’s first 5 years in the White House.

The highlight of McConnell’s history of obstructionism was the theft of a Supreme Court seat from Obama. For nearly a year he kept Merrick Garland, the eminently qualified federal judge, off the high court by denying him a Senate hearing.

He also managed to keep Obama from filling more than 100 seats on circuit and district courts.

McConnell’s brutish tactics cleared the way for two conservative Supreme Court justices – Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

Now he is running to add to that legacy.

He wants to be known for all time as the Republican who packed the courts with young, right-wing extremists. To make that happen he has to stop Democrats from using his tactics.

McConnell’s crude strategies have led to the “removal of one of the last guardrails for quality and bipartisanship in the nominations process.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said. “It is a shortsighted partisan power grab.”

And it is damaging to the courts.

Many of Trump’s judicial nominees have thin resumes and should be closely scrutinized by the Senate.

Consider two judicial nominees: 37-year-old Allison Rushing Jones and 39-year-old Eric Murphy. Rushing-Jones has practiced law for only nine years and has tried only four cases to completion. Murphy made a career as solicitor general of Ohio by arguing against gay marriage and abortion rights.

But at 77-years old, McConnell is intent on building a monument to himself as the man who put the federal courts in the hands of ultra-conservative, Koch-backed, Federalist Society judges.

This is his run for glory.

So what if he is destroying the Senate tradition of proper advice and consent on presidential nominations?

So what if he is preventing the Democrats, the minority party, from having a fair say in the nomination process and maintaining public trust in the nation’s courts?

Under McConnell that trust in a Supreme Court that rises above partisan politics is dying fast.

Now frustrated Democrats, reacting to McConnell’s rank partisanship, are giving serious thought to blowing up the current 9-member composition of the Supreme Court.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, both looking at the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination, are pushing the idea of increasing the number of justices from 9 to 15. O’Rourke is also talking about term limits for the Supreme Court justices who now have lifetime appointments.

{mossecondads}“What if there were five justices selected by Democrats, five justices selected by Republicans, and those ten then picked five more justices independent of those who chose the first ten?” O’Rourke recently asked voters in an Iowa coffee shop.

I’ve twice name McConnell as this column’s Politician of the Year.

He is a smart man. He is a brilliant political tactician. He is certainly aware that he is abusing and destroying the Senate.

But in McConnell’s Machiavellian mind, the end always justifies the means. The end here is changing the federal judiciary to be more conservative for at least another generation.  

During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously ridiculed Trump’s boasts about his own wealth.

“The richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy,” Bloomberg joked.

Well, after this week, Senator McConnell has given Trump a run for his money.

If hypocrisy were money, McConnell’s latest run has made him the richest man in Washington. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell Patrick Leahy Pete Buttigieg

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