Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a singularity of purpose and one job in mind: pack the federal courts with Federalist Society-approved judges. To that end, the senior senator from the Bluegrass State is now making the rounds and making some calls, seemingly because he thinks the likelihood of a Trump reelection victory and continued GOP Senate control post-2020 is waning.
According to the New York Times, McConnell is currently in the process of asking GOP-appointed judges who are eligible for retirement to buy that little judicial farm in Florida and get off the bench posthaste.
Citing “multiple people with knowledge of his actions,” the outlet reports that McConnell has been reaching out to such judges and promising to replace them with like-minded so-called strict constructionist judges. Per that report:
It was not known how many judges were contacted or which of them Mr. McConnell had spoken to directly. One of his Republican colleagues said others had also initiated outreach in an effort to heighten awareness among judges nominated by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush that making the change now would be advantageous.
The overt effort by Republicans to create vacancies reflects a realization that Mr. Trump could lose the presidency, or that Republicans could lose the Senate majority and deprive Mr. Trump of his partner on judicial confirmations even if he did gain a second term.
“It looks like McConnell is worried about a victory for Democrats in November,” noted former assistant U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti.
And with the Dow dropping into various shades of carmine, crimson and claret–with Goldman Sachs estimating 1929-style economic turmoil, and with no end to the pandemic-cum-panic ignited by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)–that might be the shrewd and obvious move here.
Liberals, however, are none-too-pleased.
“This is incredibly unseemly, at the least, for McConnell to be personally reaching out to judges and urging them to retire to help further partisan court-packing,” complained civil rights attorney Sasha Samberg-Champion.
”Mitch McConnell is directly pressuring sitting judges to retire to manufacture new vacancies for Trump to fill with younger nominees,” noted progressive judicial advocacy group Demand Justice’s Executive Director Brian Fallon. “This is conservative court packing.”
Other takes were a bit more showy:
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) March 16, 2020
But the response was not limited to handwringing about long-discarded norms.
“McConnell’s reputation as a Machiavellian evil genius has been built entirely on moves that should be commonsensical given the nature of the federal political system,” noted The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu.
Others readily agreed with Nwanevu:
McConnell’s genius is get power than use the power while not worrying if it hurts anyones feels or “norms”
— Jon Walker (@JonWalkerDC) March 16, 2020
He’s got that reputation because he’s clear-eyed about how power works in the federal political system and doesn’t wrap it up in civic republicanism.
— David Walsh (@DavidAstinWalsh) March 16, 2020
McConnell: Uses accumulated political power to achieve his party’s goals.
People for some reason: pic.twitter.com/DB9BQcYZg6
— Childish Arduino (@BadTweetbox) March 16, 2020
But not everyone is convinced McConnell’s reported outreach to judges will work.
“Federal judges have very strong independent streaks, and you can’t make them do it,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told the Times. “Unless they see some benefit to themselves, I don’t expect people to do it.”
[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]