This week, Senate Republicans confirmed President Trump’s 200th lifetime appointment to the federal bench. The two nominees confirmed over the past week, Justin Walker and Cory Wilson, tell a damning story about what these lawmakers prioritized during a deadly pandemic that continues to rage across the country. From even the earliest days of social distancing, Senate Republicans were far more interested in confirming these two judges, who both are stridently opposed to the Affordable Care Act.
Walker called the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act “catastrophic” and “indefensible,” while Wilson described the ACA as “illegitimate” and “perverse.” But even as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell knew the coronavirus presented an imminent health care crisis, their top priority was advancing judges ready to take health care away from millions. In the time between their initial conversations about these nominations and their final confirmations, over 120,000 people have died.
What follows is a timeline demonstrating how Trump and McConnell prioritized Walker and Wilson as COVID-19 ravaged the country:
January 3, 2020: President Donald Trump is briefed on the dangers of COVID-19.
January 8, 2020: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell meet with anti-health care judge Justin Walker to talk about the D.C. Circuit vacancy.
March 4, 2020 (158 U.S. cases, 11 U.S. deaths): Donald Trump downplays the urgency of the pandemic, telling FOX News’s Sean Hannity that the pandemic is “very mild.” Anti-health care judicial nominee Cory Wilson is contacted by the White House.
March 9, 2020 (704 U.S. cases, 26 U.S. death): Cory Wilson is interviewed by the White House and Department of Justice.
March 13, 2020 (2,184 U.S. cases, 48 U.S. deaths): McConnell skips town and refuses to hold votes on critical measures to address the COVID crisis so he can celebrate two anti-health care judges: Justin Walker and Brett Kavanaugh.
March 22, 2020 (33,928 U.S. cases, 509 U.S. deaths): Trump doubles down on his support for the lawsuit that would gut the Affordable Care Act. If this lawsuit is successful, over 20 million people will lose health insurance and 135 million people with preexisting conditions could lose critical protections — to say nothing of the many more for whom COVID-19 would now be treated as a preexisting condition.
March 27, 2020 (105,527 U.S. cases, 2,113 U.S. deaths): The U.S. becomes the world leader in COVID-19 cases. The same day, the White House notifies anti-health care judicial nominee Cory Wilson that he will be nominated to a lifetime seat on the Fifth Circuit.
April 3, 2020 (284,556 U.S. cases, 8,858 U.S. deaths): Trump announces his intent to nominate anti-health care judge Justin Walker to the D.C. Circuit.
May 6, 2020 (1,266,907 U.S. cases, 74,981 U.S. deaths): The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Justin Walker’s nomination.
May 20, 2020 (1,603,656 U.S. cases, 95,155 U.S. deaths): The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Cory Wilson’s nomination.
June 4, 2020 (1,940,315 U.S. cases, 110,415 U.S. deaths): The Senate Judiciary Committee votes along party lines to advance Justin Walker’s nomination.
June 11, 2020 (2,090,015 U.S. cases, 116,034 U.S. deaths): The Senate Judiciary Committee votes along party lines to advance Cory Wilson’s nomination.
June 18, 2020 (2,263,651 U.S. cases, 120,688 U.S. deaths): The Senate votes 51–42 to confirm Justin Walker to the D.C. Circuit.
June 24, 2020 (2,462,554 U.S. cases, 124,281 U.S. deaths): The Senate votes 52–48 to confirm Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit, making him the 200th Trump judge the Senate has confirmed for a lifetime appointment.
June 25, 2020 (2,504,588 U.S. cases, 126,780 U.S. deaths): Trump’s Department of Justice files a brief with the Supreme Court insisting the Affordable Care Act must “fall” in its entirety.