President Donald Trump thanked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday “for all that he did” to make possible the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“And although he could not be here today, I especially want to express our gratitude to Senator Mitch McConnell for all that he did to make this achievement possible,” Trump remarked at Gorsuch’s swearing in ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
Indeed, McConnell did a great deal to make the achievement possible.
About an hour after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed, in February 2016, McConnell announced that he would oppose any effort from the Obama administration to fill Scalia’s seat.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” he said.
Later that month, on the Senate’s first full day back in session since Scalia’s death and after a meeting with the majority leader, key Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans fell in line.
“We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame duck president,” majority whip and committee member Sen. John Cornyn (R-TN) said.
On Thursday, McConnell successfully changed the Senate’s Supreme Court filibuster rules with a party-line vote after a Democratic filibuster prevented the end of debate on Gorsuch’s nomination. Now, Supreme Court nominations can proceed to a confirmation vote regardless of whether they have the 60 votes formerly necessary to end a filibuster.
In a Washington Post op-ed Friday, McConnell said that Senate Republicans “have never employed” a partisan filibuster to hold up a Supreme Court nomination. He made no mention of Senate Republicans’ months-long refusal to hold hearings for former President Obama’s pick to fill Scalia’s empty seat, Merrick Garland.