Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legacy was established long ago, well before he became #MoscowMitch.
McConnell delivered Donald Trump the first major victory of his presidency months before Trump even took office. With his decision to block Merrick Garland — Barack Obama’s pick to succeed Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court — for almost a year after Scalia’s death, McConnell reshaped the future of the nation’s highest court. If Garland had been granted a fair hearing and eventually confirmed to the bench, liberals would have held a voting majority on the Supreme Court for the first time in decades. McConnell has called his unprecedented decision to block Garland, made within hours of Scalia’s passing, the “most consequential” of his political career.
“I saved the Supreme Court for a generation by blocking President Obama’s nominees and led the way for Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh,” McConnell recently bragged.
Even beyond his refusal to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the final year of Obama’s presidency, the majority leader’s biggest impact on the federal judiciary was his stonewalling of Obama’s lower bench appointments.
By the time Trump got to the White House, there were 103 judicial vacancies in the federal courts. Since his inauguration, Republicans led by McConnell have pushed through an astonishing 144 judicial appointments, including 99 district court judges and 43 appellate court judges. Trump has now appointed nearly one of every four federal circuit court judges and 15 percent of all district court judges. In 2019 alone, the Senate has confirmed 13 of Trump’s nominees for the circuit court and 46 district court picks.