Mitch McConnell has once again told the world precisely who he is. Remember, this is the guy who happily embraces his nicknames: the Grim Reaper and Cocaine Mitch. He brags that he called himself “Darth Vader” during his efforts to kill campaign finance reform at the behest of huge corporate interests. Monday morning he went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, one of his favorite confessionals, and reiterated for everyone to hear that he is evil. Whether Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—or any Democrat who is opposed to expanding the court—will hear that and whether will sink into their thick skulls is the real question.
Making sure that President Barack Obama did not get Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court was “the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate,” he said. “I preserved the Scalia vacancy for the Gorsuch appointment.” He’s rewriting his constitutional duties here, pretending that the Senate’s role of advice and consent only means allowing ideologues to be replaced with ideologues of the same bent. Which makes his next pronouncement obvious. Hewitt asks if he’d do it again should the Senate regain the majority in 2022. Would he allow a nominee from President Biden in 2024? “I think it’s highly unlikely,” he said. Which is an absolute no, as illuminated a little be further on in the conversation.
What if a Democrat retires in 2023, Hewitt asks, meaning one of the justices appointed by a Democratic president—the “Anthony Kennedy precedent,” he calls it as if that were a real thing. Would McConnell block a nominee in the year before the presidential election? “Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell says. As if there is any question. So, yes, if McConnell regains the majority next year, Biden will not be allowed a Supreme Court appointment. And McConnell will come up with all kinds of pretzel logic to justify it as some kind of principle, with precedent. As if he didn’t put the alleged sexual assaulter and unqualified Brett Kavanaugh and the extremist religious zealot and unqualified Amy Coney Barrett on the court. As if he didn’t shove the Barrett nomination through literally days before the 2020 presidential election.
This is far from the first time McConnell broadcast his agenda for all to see—it’s not even the first time this year. He just said it a little over a month ago: “100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration … 100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration.” Does he need to tattoo it on his forehead? Does he need to tattoo it on Manchin’s and Sinema’s foreheads?
“What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country,” McConnell added. Total unity. 100% in opposition to stopping the Biden administration. But the total charade of bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure continues, all because a few Democrats aren’t willing to be as ruthless as McConnell to save the nation from him and eliminate the filibuster.
More Democrats continue to be squeamish about reforming the courts and bringing balance back to the Supreme Court by expanding it. They’re buying into the bullshit narrative that that’s court packing. Adam Serwer gets this one exactly right:
Reserving Supreme Court seats for conservative ideologues is exactly what court packing is. Three Trump justices is court packing. It’s more than just “procedural radicalism,” it’s procedural terrorism. McConnell has absolutely no qualms about doing this. He will twist and pervert the Senate rules any way he can, and do it proudly and unapologetically.
Once he jammed the huge GOP tax scam through with just Republican votes using budget reconciliation—which he didn’t hesitate to do for one minute—McConnell would have happily nuked the filibuster on legislation it it had been to his benefit. He determined it wasn’t because 1) the only thing that mattered was getting judges through, and he did nuke the filibuster on Supreme Court appointments, and 2) he was protecting his members from having to vote on crazy shit coming from Trump and Republicans in those first two years they held the House.
Democrats have unilaterally disarmed by not immediately nuking the filibuster, and by not adding seats to the Supreme Court and district and appeals courts. Much of this is on Biden. He has dithered on Supreme Court reform, leaving it to a committee to talk about for six months without even necessarily having to come up with recommendations. He’s allowing this farce of “bipartisan negotiations” go on between Sinema and Manchin.
It’s sort of astounding then to have to go to former Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson from Nebraska, the ConservaDem who was so often a thorn in Obama’s and Harry Reid’s sides. NBC News got an advance copy of his new book, Death of the Senate. In it, he warns Biden not to trust McConnell, calling him a “dark knight who lives, breathes and eats to gain political advantage breakfast, lunch, dinner.”