'Political blowback' from Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court maneuvers may cost him the Senate: journalist
When Ronald Reagan nominee and far-right U.S. Supreme Court Antonin Scalia died in March 2016, then-President Barack Obama clearly had no intention of nominating someone as liberal as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Obama made a concerted effort to meet GOP senators halfway, nominating a decidedly centrist, middle-of-the-road Democrat: Merrick Garland, who is now U.S. attorney general under President Joe Biden. But then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to that olive branch by refusing to even consider Garland.
McConnell invoked what he called the “McConnell rule,” declaring that it was wrong to consider a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year. But four years later, during the 2020 presidential race, he rammed through far-right Donald Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett following Ginsburg’s death. That time, the “McConnell rule” didn’t apply. And in 2022, Barrett was among the five GOP-appointed justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — making abortion one of the top issues in the 2022 midterms.
The Dobbs decision has angered millions of voters in the United States. And journalist Walter Shapiro, in an article published by The New Republic on September 14, stresses that McConnell’s "cynical" Supreme Court maneuvers could cost him the U.S. Senate majority he was hoping to obtain in the midterms.
“Nothing in McConnell’s long career — decades devoid of any principle beyond the pursuit of power — matches his refusal to consider a moderate Supreme Court nominee who was named almost seven months before the 2016 election,” Shapiro explains. “When Amy Coney Barrett was anointed by Trump to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg little more than a month before the 2020 election, McConnell, with double-jointed flexibility, rubber-stamped her confirmation in a head-spinning 30 days. What McConnell cared about was not social issues, but creating a conservative Supreme Court that would tear down government regulations and rule the Republicans’ way on voting rights, gerrymandering, and campaign finance. Now, McConnell has gotten the Supreme Court and the political blowback that he deserves as the abortion decision has mobilized Democratic voters and upended Republican hopes in November.”
Shapiro notes that McConnell, according to author Alec McGillis’s 2014 book “The Cynic,” was a “staunch defender of abortion rights” when he was building a career in Kentucky politics back in the 1960s and 1970s. But he flip-flopped and became anti-abortion after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.
“When Barrett joined the Court in late 2020, McConnell was probably reveling in his cleverness in thwarting the Democrats rather than thinking about abortion,” Shapiro argues. “Everyone knew that abortion decisions were in the legal pipeline, but the general expectation was that the conservative Supreme Court would continue to eviscerate Roe v. Wade piece by piece rather than reject it completely…. If Garland had been confirmed in 2016, this would have been the Roberts Court instead of the Trump-McConnell Court. Had Roberts written the majority decision and avoided the outright disdain for Roe, Democrats would now be struggling to explain to wavering voters why the Supreme Court allowing Mississippi to go forward with a 15-week ban on abortion had such dire consequences. Instead, the dramatic repeal of Roe needs little explaining to anyone.”
Shapiro continues, “By every measure, Republicans are likely in trouble because the Alito opinion went off the rails. In almost every swing state, women are rushing to register to vote. Right-wing Senate candidates such as Blake Masters in Arizona have cleansed their campaign websites in a futile effort to hide their uncompromising anti-abortion views. This week, when Lindsey Graham proposed federal legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks, McConnell displayed visible irritation at the South Carolina Republican as he told reporters, ‘You’ll have to ask him about it.’”
McConnell himself has said that while he believes Republicans are likely to “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives, he considers the Senate a toss-up.
Shapiro writes, “Once-vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents have been buoyed by widespread public disapproval of the Supreme Court abortion decision…. Once-vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents have been buoyed by widespread public disapproval of the Supreme Court abortion decision.”
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