Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving quickly to confirm appointments to the circuit and district courts.
McConnell's power grab
By Kristine Lucius
Rigging the rules of the game is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's specialty — especially when it comes to his quest to transform the federal courts. His latest attempt would almost eliminate the amount of time senators have to debate and consider anti-civil rights nominees for federal district court judgeships. This week, he tried to rig the system through the normal process. He failed, but now he will try to break the rules to change the rules.
This is not a Washington fight over quaint, genteel Senate courtesies. This is about how far McConnell will go to cram biased nominees through the Senate.
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Republicans have eviscerated nearly every other check along the process — from consulting senators, to scheduling hearings during recess, to hiding the records of anti-civil rights nominees. Now, they want to turbocharge the process in the hope that we do not see what they are hiding — dozens upon dozens of highly controversial nominees who are not qualified to serve in lifetime positions.
McConnell's singular goal has been to fill the federal courts with biased judges who will help the wealthy and the powerful. This includes pending nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk, who has a record against the LGBTQ community, and Wendy Vitter, who has promoted dangerously false claims that birth control pills can cause violent death. These are the types of extreme nominees Senate Republicans are rigging the system to rush into lifetime positions.
Don't let McConnell hide behind claims of obstruction. Ask President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland about McConnell's obstruction. By holding open a Supreme Court seat, as well as more than 100 district and circuit court seats, McConnell rigged the system so he could later stack the courts.
Already, McConnell has paved the way for Trump to transform a significant percentage of the federal appellate courts, having confirmed 37 Court of Appeals nominees, more than any other president at this point in his presidency. But McConnell wants to transform all the federal courts and hide the biased records of dozens upon dozens of nominees to the district courts.
We all need the Senate to thoroughly evaluate nominees; otherwise, biased nominees like Thomas Farr would have been confirmed. Farr, a notorious voter suppressor, was defeated last year in the final hours of debate when new information surfaced about his involvement in disenfranchising African-American voters. His confirmation would have made a mockery of the civil rights of those in North Carolina.
Lifetime appointments require thorough examination, and the Senate should not cut corners simply to rush confirmation of biased judges who would roll back civil rights protections for decades to come. All senators must take seriously their role in protecting our courts and reject McConnell's partisan power grab.
Kristine Lucius is the executive vice president of policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. You can follow her on Twitter: @lucius4justice.
What others are saying
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Politico: "Our proposal would only reduce the time a minority can keep delaying lower-tier nominations after a majority has invoked cloture. This would keep the Senate floor moving, saving time that is currently tied up in inoffensive nominations that senators don’t even really debate. And, at last, it would let President Donald Trump fill important vacancies at a more reasonable pace. ... The status quo is unfair, unhealthy and unsustainable. This president and all future presidents deserve a more functional process for building their administrations."
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner: "For conservatives who care about gun rights, religious liberty, economic freedom, free speech, protecting the unborn, and a whole host of other issues, the composition of the court in the coming decades will be crucial. ... A critical mass of judges on the bench who adhere to the Constitution will be a bulwark against this encroachment on individual liberties. If liberals are to transform America, it should at least require the hard work of winning elections and passing legislation rather than being made possible through a judicial shortcut."
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Twitter: "'We are going to move judges like they are on a conveyor belt,' said McConnell. (Yet) the Republican Senate wouldn't give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing. They took unprecedented steps to block President Barack Obama's nominees. Now they need to change the rules to force through President Trump's judges?"
What our readers are saying
Does the name Merrick Garland ring a bell? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to obstruct every single thing President Barack Obama did. This level of hypocrisy is breathtaking.
— Anne Mitchell
McConnell said, "It's mindless, undiscriminating obstruction for the sake of obstruction." I wonder how he came up with that epiphany? Did he look in a mirror perhaps?
— Ian Hunter
McConnell struck the match. This is further proof that we need term limits on members of Congress and a new generation of leadership.
— John A. Haynes
Says the man who set precedent by refusing to sit a Supreme Court justice until the following year. You made your bed, McConnell, now lie in it.
— Timothy Tucker
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McConnell is trying to leave a lifetime conservative legacy through judicial appointments: Today's talker