Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear in an interview Wednesday that the top priority for the Republican-controlled upper chamber upon its expected return early next month will not be approving desperately needed coronavirus aid for the unemployed, the uninsured, and frontline workers.
Rather, McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Senate will resume its rapid-fire confirmations of President Donald Trump's lifetime right-wing judicial nominees "as soon as we get back in session."
"The pandemic hasn't stopped Trump and McConnell from trying to take over our federal courts with extreme judges who are anti-healthcare and anti-civil rights. This is their priority."
—Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
"The current plan is to go back in session on May the 4th," said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "I haven't seen anything that would discourage me from doing that. And as soon as we get back in session, we'll start confirming judges again. We need to have hearings, and we need to confirm judges. Hugh, you and I have discussed this before. My motto for the year is leave no vacancy behind. That hasn't changed."
"The pandemic," McConnell added, "will not prevent us from achieving that goal."
McConnell's remarks came just hours after the Senate Majority Leader threw cold water on the prospect of fast movement on a fourth coronavirus aid package that—unlike the interim measure the Senate passed Tuesday—includes relief for the millions of people struggling to meet basic needs amid the coronavirus-induced economic fallout.
"The best way to get the economy back and running is to begin to open it up again, rather than passing immediately another bill where we have to borrow," McConnell told Politico.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, Trump in recent weeks has nominated two more ultra-conservative judges: U.S. District Judge Justin Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Cory Wilson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
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"This is all they care about: stacking courts with ideologically extreme judges to roll back our rights for decades," Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, tweeted in response to McConnell's comments Wednesday. "We can't stand for it."
There's 1 judicial nominee that McConnell is very eager to confirm: Justin Walker.
He's only 38 and was rated "not qualified" rating by the ABA. But he's up for a seat on the 2nd most powerful court in the country. Why?
Because McConnell and Brett Kavanaugh personally want him.
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) April 22, 2020
Civil rights groups decried Trump's nomination of Walker and Wilson as another step toward packing the federal courts with "right-wing ideologues" hostile to reproductive rights, workers, and the environment.
Trump, with the help of McConnell and the right-wing Federalist Society, has now hand-picked around one in every five U.S. federal judges. Because Trump's selections have been disproportionately young, they will have the power to reshape American law for decades to come.
"Please pay attention," Gupta said earlier this month. "The pandemic hasn't stopped Trump and McConnell from trying to take over our federal courts with extreme judges who are anti-healthcare and anti-civil rights. This is their priority."