When it comes to achieving confirmation of conservative judges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has good reason to be "tooting (his) own horn."
The Kentucky Republican admitted that's what he was doing when telling the New York Times on Tuesday that the judicial confirmations in a polarized Washington, especially those of three Supreme Court justices in less than four years, were more "consequential" than the accomplishments of any other majority leader. If he isn't right about that, he is close.
The raw numbers don't lie, and they tell much of the story. Indeed, the more numbers one peruses, the more impressive McConnell's record looks. Through Oct. 27 of a first term, no president has secured more judicial confirmations than the 220 confirmed for Donald Trump under McConnell's Senate leadership. (George W. Bush and Bill Clinton tie for second at 203.) More impressive still, 53 of those appointees were for the crucial federal courts of appeal. That's 11 and 18 more, or 20-30% more, than the next two highest, the elder and younger Bushes.
Then, there are the three Supreme Court justices, all of the highest professional qualifications, all pushed through with narrow majorities under difficult circumstances.
Those difficult circumstances are not only quantifiable but astonishing. Never in U.S. history has the minority party in the Senate gone to such extreme procedural lengths to block the confirmation of judicial nominees. Again and again, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's Democrats have forced lengthy debate and used procedural hurdles against even noncontroversial nominees, gumming up the works in the Senate in piques of sheer spite.
For 214 years, all but the most divisive nominees advanced to a final floor vote without even a threat of a filibuster, with no need for "cloture" votes to overcome minority opposition. Only one cloture vote was required for any of President Ronald Reagan's judicial nominees, one for the elder Bush, one for Clinton. Until the Trump term, the record for judicial cloture votes was 13. Schumer, though, has forced McConnell to take 174 cloture votes -- yes, 174, or more than 13 times as many as the prior record! -- in order even to allow final votes on Trump's nominees.
Still, McConnell persisted.
And McConnell won. He won for two years, with a mere 51-49 Republican majority, and for two more, with just 53-47. And he won for good reason: These nominees were outstanding. As the Congressional Research Service has shown, and as even liberal judicial analysts have admitted, the percentage of judges appointed by Trump and confirmed under McConnell earning "well qualified" ratings even from the hostile American Bar Association has been at the very top end of all presidencies.
Under the original constitutional design, courts and judges were not meant to be as consequential as they are today. Nonetheless, after 100 years of liberal judicial activism, judges effectively set the parameters for a large host of divisive social and economic issues. It is thus of tremendous importance for the courts to be seeded with judges who are willing to stay in their lanes, as it were -- judges willing to set aside their own policy preferences and instead be bound by the original public meaning of the actual text of the Constitution and laws they apply. In almost all cases, that's what the Trump-McConnell judges are doing.
The result will be an appropriate rebalancing of American government with elective branches or clear constitutional text, not hazy notions of some cosmic justice, predominating.
Against leftist Democratic obstructionism (and, oft-times, smears), it is quite an accomplishment for McConnell to have held his focus and his colleagues together to confirm 220 such judges, including Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. But McConnell needs not toot his own horn because constitutionalists will be tooting it for him.
The Washington Examiner
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