Three years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did something few Americans in history can credibly claim: he stole a Supreme Court seat and got away with it. It’s been described by many as the “heist of the century” for a reason: Americans will be dealing with the consequences of his actions for many years to come.
This year, however, his actions are now the basis for the GOP leader’s re-election pitch. McConnell, who’ll seek a seventh term in Kentucky next year, kicked off his latest campaign this morning with a new video that emphasizes his role in taking a Supreme Court seat from a Democratic administration and delivering it to a republican one.
The three-minute video released by McConnell’s Senate campaign includes footage of Obama announcing his nomination of Garland in March 2016 and asking Senate Republicans to “give him a hearing and then an up-or-down vote.”
It then switches to audio of McConnell pledging to block consideration of Garland.
“Let’s let the American people decide: Who will Americans trust to nominate the next Supreme Court justice?” McConnell says.
Even at the time, the talking point didn’t make sense: the American people had elected Barack Obama, who still had nearly a year remaining in his term. After the 2016 election, the argument was even more flawed: the American people chose Hillary Clinton – even if the electoral college didn’t.
But the details aren’t nearly as important as watching McConnell brag about his abuse – making it the centerpiece of his new re-election message – as if it were somehow worthy of praise.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, when Justice Antonin Scalia died, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a center-left, compromise jurist – recommended by Senate Republicans – to fill the vacancy, which opened the door to a historic opportunity, unseen in recent decades: the Supreme Court could finally stop drifting to the far-right.
McConnell instead decided to impose an unprecedented high-court blockade, gambling that Americans would ignore his maximalist partisan scheme, and elect a Republican president and Republican Congress.
The gamble, we now know, paid dividends for his party. Instead of a center-left justice working alongside a conservative minority on the court, Americans are dealing with the opposite of what they voted for.
I tend to think of this story as a scandal that’s never really fully been appreciated as one. Just after the election, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that Senate Republicans’ treatment of a qualified, moderate jurist was effectively a political crime. A Supreme Court seat, the Oregon senator argued, was “stolen from the Obama administration and the construct of our Constitution. And it’s being delivered to an administration that has no right to fill it.”
The American people, Merkley added, need to “understand that this is the theft of the court.”
McConnell, without shame or embarrassment, is now asking to be rewarded for his historic abuse.