Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed Friday that he would continue his full-court press to remake the judiciary up until January 3, when Democrats may take over the Senate, depending on the outcome of next week’s election.
“We’re going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the President,” McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “We’re going to fill the 7th Circuit. And I’m hoping we have time to fill the 1st Circuit as well.”
The seat on the 7th Circuit opened when Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was elevated to the high court.
McConnell is clearly, and unsurprisingly, dispensing with the Thurmond rule, an unwritten practice for the Senate to stop confirming a President’s nominees to the federal judiciary at some point during an election year.
“We’re going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well,” McConnell said.
After years of blocking President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees, including, famously, his Supreme Court nominee, McConnell has gleefully rammed through rafts of judges at all levels. He has said that he considers his efforts in remaking the federal judiciary his greatest legacy.
He carried the same philosophy into the Barrett’s confirmation, sprinting it through no matter the previous rationale he deployed to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland: that it was too close to the election. Garland was nominated 237 days before the 2016 election; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death left her seat open a mere 46 days before this one.
“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” McConnell said on the Senate floor just before Barrett’s confirmation. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
The calls for Democrats to expand both the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary — should former Vice President Joe Biden win the White House and Democrats take the Senate — have been growing louder since Ginsberg’s death. Many in the party are incensed at McConnell’s hijacking of the judiciary, and Democratic senators spent the Barrett hearings pounding the alarm on the now-even more present risks to the Affordable Care Act, abortion access and LGBTQ rights.
Biden announced that, as President, he would stand up a blue ribbon commission to examine the court expansion question. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that “nothing is off the table.”