4 Reasons to Doubt Mitch McConnell’s Power

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Mitch McConnell

To use power, you must have it.

On the night of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that a Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg would receive a vote on the floor of the Senate.

That announcement promised a use of power without hesitation or compunction, an abrupt reversal of the supposed rule that blocked an Obama nomination nine months before the 2016 election. This supposed rule would seem much better justified in 2020 than 2016. This time, the vacancy has occurred only 46 days before an election. This time, the party of the president making the nomination seems likely to lose, not win. This time, the Senate majority to approve the nomination may lose too.

But of course, the real rule in 2016 was “the good old rule … the simple plan, that they should take who have the power, and they should keep who can.” What McConnell did in 2016 was an assertion of brute power, and what he proposes in 2020 is another assertion of brute power. And so the question arises: Does McConnell in fact have the power he asserts?

The polls do not favor Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, or Thom Tillis—senators from Maine, Colorado, and North Carolina up for reelection this cycle. Yet these competitors may not be ready to attend their own funerals. They may regard voting against McConnell’s Court grab as a heaven-sent chance to prove their independence from an unpopular president—and to thereby save their own seats.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also made skeptical noises, and even Lindsey Graham of South Carolina may flinch. He faces an unexpectedly tough race this year, and he is extra-emphatically on the record vowing not to support a Supreme Court confirmation vote in the later part of a presidential year.

(Martha McSally of Arizona, however, is likely a safe vote for McConnell. The deadest of the Senate’s dead ducks surely must be focused on retaining national Republican support for her post-Senate career. Mitt Romney of Utah is a more open question: His strong sense of fairness will push him against confirmation; his consistent support for conservative judges will pull him in favor.)

McConnell cannot afford more than three defections in the face of what will certainly be united Democratic opposition to any last-minute Trump nominee.

Continue the story here: The Atlantic