Senate Republicans will be able to fill the nation's federal courts with conservative justices even more rapidly under a new rule change proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, infuriating progressives.
McConnell's latest salvo in the battle over the courts is less dramatic than his work to stack the Supreme Court for President Donald Trump, but the Kentucky Republican is nonetheless making moves that will have longstanding effects on the makeup of the country's judicial system.
The newest "nuclear option" being considered by the majority leader would slash debate time on district court nominees from 30 hours to two. McConnell justified the move in a floor speech Thursday that, at best, referred to ideas of comity and legislative fairness that were inconsistent with his behavior during the President Barack Obama administration.
During the last year of the Obama administration, McConnell used his power in the Senate to keep the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia open in spite of Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the position—simply by refusing to allow Garland to come up for a vote.
On Thursday, McConnell sounded a different tune, bemoaning the disappearance of bipartisanship and calling for a reduction in debate time to allow Trump's nominees to go through in bulk.
Today I took the first step under regular order towards ending systematic obstruction on nominees and getting the Senate back to its normal pattern for handling presidential nominations.https://t.co/bFJ8DSLKZy— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 28, 2019
"This is a reform that every member should embrace," said McConnell, "when their party controls the White House and when it does not control the White House."
Nuclear Option Alert — McConnell says plans to change Senate rules to cut debate time on district court nominees from 30 hours to 2 hours.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 28, 2019
This would clear the way for Republicans to speedily confirm a boatload of Trump judges.
"This is a change the institution needs."
In a statement, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit McConnell for the proposed change and called the Republican move a manipulation of the system.
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"Sen. McConnell's approach has always been to manipulate Senate rules when it helps him and then change Senate rules when the tables turn," said Schumer. "This is just another step in his effort to limit the rights of the minority and cede authority to the administration."
.@SenateMajLdr McConnell’s approach has always been to manipulate Senate rules when it helps him and then change Senate rules when the tables turn.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 28, 2019
This is just another step in his effort to limit the rights of the minority and cede authority to the administration. pic.twitter.com/3gjuZERYJ1
Progressives were furious.
Alexis Goldstein, cohost of the podcast Humorless Queers, pointed to McConnell's success already in forcing through nominee after nominee with extreme right wing positions. That's not enough for the majority leader, though, she said.
"He's TOTALLY DRUNK on his own power and just wants MORE," said Goldstein.
This is complete fucking BULLSHIT. McConnell has had NO PROBLEMS ramming through anti-LBGT anti-woman & other totally bonkers judges since 2016, ignoring the “blue slips” that let home state Senators object to noms.— Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein) March 28, 2019
He’s TOTALLY DRUNK on his own power and just wants MORE. https://t.co/af9fpbkTXk
Splinter's Sophie Weiner was aghast at the hypocrisy. In an essay on the rule change, Weiner pointed to Garland and McConnell's use of the rules to stop any forward progress on any progressive principles while calling for bipartisanship on his party's priorities.
"Do we even need to point out how absurdly craven a move this is from MITCH FUCKING MCCONNELL?!?" wrote Weiner.