Editorial: Supreme Court majority is McConnell’s, not Trump’s

York Dispatch

He’s about to do it again.

For the second time in two years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is about to steal a Supreme Court seat.

Yes, President Donald Trump nominated the candidate: Washington insider and reliable conservative Brett Kavanaugh. But Trump made his selection from a list of about two dozen justices provided by right-leaning groups and thinkers — his interest in finalists for important contests running more along the lines of the Miss Universe Pageant than the Supreme Court.

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It is, in fact, McConnell who will again see that a controversial candidate who, in normal political times, might well fall short of the high court, is whisked onto the bench. He will again suspend the long-heralded Senate rule of judicial filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

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That means Kavanaugh will not have to meet the traditional 60-vote threshold to have his nomination reach the Senate floor — a hurdle that ensured past nominees, even controversial ones such as Clarence Thomas, had some semblance of bipartisan support. (Indeed, Thomas never even faced a filibuster.)

Like freshman Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who became the first beneficiary of McConnell’s blithe disregard of Senate rules last year, a simple 50-vote majority is all Kavanaugh will need to muster. Never mind Senate tradition or calls that McConnell should follow his own rule of delaying a nomination process so close to a general election, or any thought to the 50-plus percent of voters who cast ballots for the Democratic presidential candidate over Trump in 2016. McConnell is beholden to party over people, first, foremost and forever.

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We should expect nothing less (or, more accurately, nothing more) of so craven an opportunist.

After all, the Senate Republican has made a career of bending and breaking rules to get his party’s way — to hell with the good of the country and the will of the American people. Let us count the ways:

  • His vow in the early days of the Obama administration that his number one priority was to make Barack Obama “a one-term president.”
  • His subsequent obstinance in leading a GOP charge to block any and all Obama initiatives — even those that Republicans formerly supported (remember Romneycare?).
  • His unprecedented refusal to afford Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, hearings or a vote in the Senate.
  • His maneuver to subvert natural order to ram through a partisan tax cut last year (and a similar, unsuccessful effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act) without any public hearings or Democratic input.
  • His refusal to join Obama last summer in issuing what would have been a bipartisan statement denouncing Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
  • His refusal to allow debate on efforts to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

At every turn, the Senate’s majority leader puts party before country, partisanship before Constitution, and himself before all. Every time.

Democratic leaders in the Senate have appeared unwilling or unable to successfully counter these partisan parries. And the situation appears to be no different now, as McConnell — so tortoise-like when a bill not to his liking is called for — makes like a hare in scheduling hearings and a vote for Kavanaugh.

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So, absent an uncharacteristic attack of conscience among a handful of GOP senators or an unlikely tidal wave of public disapproval in the streets, Kavanaugh and his conservative ideology will be sitting among the nine justices when the 2018-19 Supreme Court term opens in October.

President Trump will make with the usual self-congratulatory tweets. But it is Mitch McConnell to whom Republicans — in the minority in the 2016 presidential vote; unable to award a presidential candidate a popular vote in 14 years; owners of only one popularly elected president since 1988 — will owe their unlikely, unrepresentative and undeserved majority on the Supreme Court.