Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, whose Machiavellian maneuvering has turned the Supreme Court to the far right, just unveiled a new scheme to bolster conservative judicial supremacy on the nation’s top court, signaling that a Democratic President no longer has the right to seat a Supreme Court nominee.
On Monday, the Kentucky Republican declared he would refuse to confirm a Supreme Court nominee picked by President Joe Biden in election year 2024 if the GOP wins the Senate next year. In fact, McConnell didn’t even guarantee he would allow the confirmation of a Biden nominee in 2023 either.
“I think it’s highly unlikely,” McConnell said when asked on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative radio show if Biden would get a pick.
McConnell’s dubious strategy has set off sirens for Democrats across Washington who hear the remarks as a reminder that the clock has already started both on moving their ambitious agenda through a narrowly divided Congress and keeping what few seats they have left on the high court.
McConnell is returning to his self-declared rule that he used to thwart President Barack Obama’s pick Merrick Garland for eight months before the election in 2016. But with a Republican, Donald Trump, in the White House in 2020, he muscled Amy Coney Barrett onto the high court eight days before the election after hypocritically creating an exception to his own rule — that is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution — that came into operation if the Senate and the White House were in hands of the same party.
McConnell has set a timer on the moment when Democrats could lose their short window on congressional power at the 2024 election. And with the kind of cynical clarity that only an expert and ruthless political operator can muster, he underscored just how high the stakes are next year.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley from Oregon warned that McConnell’s warning raised the specter of another theft of a Supreme Court seat.
“The damage to the Court is enormous, it turns into … a partisan warfare. He has put this on steroids that is an order of magnitude that is more intense now,” Merkley said on “Cuomo Prime Time.”
“What can we do? Well, we can make sure that McConnell is not in the majority in ’23 and ’24 because … when he was in the majority he’s played this game before and his party rewarded him for it,” he said, according to CNN.
However, it is possible that this time McConnell’s goading could serve to fire up Democratic activists and stoke liberal turnout in the midterms. It’s curious however that the Supreme Court has never seemed to motivate progressives during elections in the same way it got conservatives to the polls. Maybe McConnell’s lightning rod comments will change that.