The battle to ram through Brett Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court justice unveiled credible allegations of sexual assault against the federal court judge, led to a meaningless investigation by a hamstrung FBI, unleashed howls of protest inside and outside Congress, and deepened partisan divisions in an already fractured Senate.
Mitch McConnell, however, is smiling.
The Republican Senate Majority Leader said Sunday that the Senate is not broken and that this is, in fact, his finest hour.
On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked McConnell if, after installing 26 conservative judges on the courts, including now two Supreme Court justices, if the Kavanaugh nomination was “your proudest moment as a senator.”
“I think so,” McConnell said, adding that Republicans are not yet finished with their overhaul of the federal judiciary system. “We’ve done 26 so far as you indicated, record, and there’ll be more before the end of the year,” he said.
Many of Trump’s judicial nominees, a record number of which have been confirmed, are extreme right-wing ideologues. One circuit court judge, James Ho, issued his first opinion earlier this year, which ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser reported was “a monument to conservative political rhetoric and right-wing historical myths.”
Wallace then asked McConnell about usually-critical “hard-right conservatives” like Steve Bannon who now see McConnell as a “strong leader.”
McConnell replied that it’s “almost an out-of-body experience, I must say.”
He then took a bow for the legislative, procedural, and regulatory changes he has rammed through, much of it to the detriment of average Americans.
“This is an extraordinarily accomplished congress, the most productive two-year period in the time I’ve been in the Senate whether it’s taxes, regulations, we got the economy booming and we are making long-term systemic changes in the courts that will serve future generations of Americans in a very good way.”
Despite the passage of the tax cut bill and the deregulation of significant parts of the economy, the 115th Congress was the fourth-least-productive in three decades, according to Pew. The tax cut bill will turbo-charge inequality and other less-well-known changes aim to shred the social safety net. McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have been silent on any given Trump scandal or outrageous statement. And Senate Republicans’ handling of problems like the Kavanaugh nomination has not helped Congress become less divisive.
My fervent hope is that this barrel of kerosene will work to extinguish this flame. https://t.co/WXcpwwGQaB
— Seth Masket (@smotus) October 5, 2018
Wallace asked about the low relations between Republican and Democratic senators amplified by the Kavanaugh fight: “how broken is the Senate?”
“The Senate is not broken,” McConnell said. He defended his refusal to even offer President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing in 2016 after Justice Scalia died with the august American tradition of not filling a Court vacancy created in a presidential election year if the president and the Senate are controlled by different parties.
He said “we didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him,” omitting the fact that Democrats did not do that to Justice Neil Gorsuch, and what Senate Democrats did with Kavanaugh was to believe his credible accusers.
McConnell, after all, was the majority leader who broke the Senate last year by getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, ensuring that presidents can nominate people who do not need widespread, bipartisan approval.
.@senatemajldr: We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him. We simply followed the tradition in America, which is that if you have a Senate of a different party than the president, you don’t fill a vacancy created in a presidential year. pic.twitter.com/u1jm36EEbC
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) October 7, 2018
“I agree with Chuck Schumer, this has been a low point in the Senate,” McConnell said. “I have a different view about who caused the low point.” He said Senate Judiciary Democrats leaked Dr. Ford’s name, even though there is no evidence they did so.
He attacked “the mob” descending on Capitol Hill, even though he was happy to have Tea Party activists descend on Democratic members of Congress in 2010 to intimidate them. “We stood up to the mob, established the presumption of innocence is so important. I’m proud of my colleagues. This is an important day for the United States Senate.”
It’s certainly an important day for McConnell’s political party, which now controls all three branches of government, most governorships, and a large majority of state legislative seats.
He also did not rule out a McConnell-controlled Senate taking up a Trump Supreme Court nominee if there is a vacancy in 2020, a presidential election year. “We will see if there’s a vacancy in 2020.”