Republicans are desperate to rig the Supreme Court before the election, and they're not being shy about admitting it.
Republicans have been fretting for months that they will lose the House and quite possibly the Senate this November, so they’re trying to do as much damage as they can before voters take that power away from them.
And that’s why Republican Senate leaders are desperate to ram through a far-right conservative to fill Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat, which will be vacant as of July 31, before the election this fall.
“The goal will be to get a conservative confirmed before the election,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), adding that he is “sure” Trump will “appoint somebody just like Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch.”
Sen. John Thune of South Dakokta said he and his fellow Republicans will “certainly get right to it” as soon as they have a name from Trump. He also said he “can’t imagine” that they would not have installed a new justice before the election.
This, of course, isn’t just the GOP’s hope. It’s their only chance. They know that if Democrats take control of the Senate, Republicans won’t be able to ram through someone like Neil Gorsuch, the far-right conservative Trump named to the seat Republicans stole from President Obama in 2016.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept that seat vacant under a rule of his own invention — the McConnell Rule — that said Supreme Court seats cannot be filled during an election year. Now McConnell has already vowed to break his own rule.
“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” he said Wednesday.
Senate Democrats should not let McConnell and the rest of his party get away with it, but it’s easy to see why McConnell and the rest of the Republican leadership are so anxious to get it done before Election Day.
In fact, just last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, was not so subtly pressuring justices to retire immediately for this very reason.
“I just hope that if there is going to be a nominee, I hope it’s now or within two or three weeks, because we’ve got to get this done before the election,” he said in May. “So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.”
He further warned that under a “Democrat Senate,” Republicans would never be able to pass through “the kind of people that are strict constructionists.”
This is the same Grassley who diligently enforced the McConnell Rule, refusing to even hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee in 2016. Now, though, Grassley is eager to ram though a “strict constructionist” — aka, a far-right conservative justice who will further gut basic rights, as Gorsuch has helped to do in his first year.
For all of the headaches and humiliations Trump has caused for his fellow Republicans in Congress, they have largely tolerated him to be able to force through their radical agenda. For House Speaker Paul Ryan, it was the disastrous and incredibly unpopular tax scam to give handouts to billionaires and corporations.
For McConnell, it’s remaking the judiciary from top to bottom. For all of Trump’s repulsive tweets and name-calling and outright shaming, it has been worth it to them if they can get what they’ve wanted all along.
That’s going to be a lot harder to do if voters kick them out of power this fall, as poll after poll suggests is going to happen.
And that is why McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership are eager to force through a Supreme Court nominee as soon as possible, regardless of their own rules and standards. They know voters are coming for them, the clock is ticking, and they won’t be able to get away with it much longer.