by Chaylee N. Brock
422 days. More than a year. Do you know the significance of that number?
It was 422 days that Mitch McConnell, majority leader in the Senate, allowed the Supreme Court seat of Antonin Scalia to sit vacant, following Scalia’s sudden and unexpected death in February of 2016. His choice to do so went against everything the Constitution says about filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, and I feel confident making that assertion, because, like a good chunk of Americans, I can read and comprehend words.
The Appointments Clause, found in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, gives the sitting president of the United States the right and the duty to appoint people to many different positions, including the United States Supreme Court. Normally, the Senate must approve new Justices the president wishes to appoint to the highest court in the land, but at the end of the Appointments Clause is this little caveat: “[t]he President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
While this last part of the Clause wasn’t made explicit, both Alexander Hamilton, who wrote about the Clause in the Federalist Papers, as well as numerous attorneys after Hamilton’s time, all seem to agree that it means exactly what it says: “its purpose was to provide an alternative method of appointment that would allow the filling of vacancies ‘without delay’ during periods of Senate absence.”
The founders of this country were so troubled by the idea of a seat on the Supreme Court remaining vacant for long periods of time that they added this little provision in the Constitution, allowing a president to fill that seat without Senate approval, if the Senate was not in session at the time of the vacancy. It seems fairly obvious that the founders knew it could cause trouble to leave vacancies on the Court for long and, therefore, made sure those seats could be filled as quickly as possible, whether with Senate approval or not.
However, it seems Mitch McConnell didn’t get that memo. Or maybe his dog ate that page of his pocket Constitution, which all those Republicans carry around and just love to whip out at any given moment, usually to give a self-righteous tongue lashing to someone they label as “unpatriotic” in some form or another.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016, President Barack Obama was in office. According to the Constitution, it was President Obama’s right and duty to fill that vacancy, whether the Senate was in session at the time or not. Wanting to do so “without delay,” as is written in the Appointments Clause, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to be the next Supreme Court Justice on March 16th, 2016.
Mitch McConnell’s response? “No.”
McConnell: It’s campaign season. We’re right in the middle of it. And one of the most important issues now is this: who will Americans trust to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice? Presidential candidates are already debating the issue on stage. Americans are already discussing the issue among themselves. And voters are already casting ballots…
As Senators, it leaves us with a choice: will we allow the people to continue deciding who will nominate the next Justice, or will we empower a lame duck president to make that decision on his way out the door instead? Presidents have a right to nominate, just as the Senate has its Constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making, in November, the decision they have already started making today.
Not only did Mitch McConnell not allow a vote on the Senate floor for Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, but he wouldn’t even allow the Senate to debate the issue. He spent the eleven months leading up to the November election arguing that the vacancy should not be filled until the American people selected their next president. Even despite the caveat in the Constitution that would allow President Obama to implement his nomination while the Senate was on recess, McConnell got his way.
Antonin Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court was eventually filled by a new Justice of Donald Trump’s choosing, Neil Gorsuch, on April 10th, 2017. Since Scalia died on February 13, 2016, and his seat wasn’t filled until April 10, 2017, that means Mitch McConnell’s forced vacancy lasted a grand total of 422 days — a new record for the longest vacancy on the 9-seat Supreme Court in American history.
Today, we are 45 days, approximately six weeks away from the 2020 General Election, and, sadly, just like the last presidential election year, we have lost yet another Supreme Court Justice, just as suddenly and unexpectedly.
Last night, America learned that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hero and inspiration to many for her long career fighting for women’s rights, had passed away at the age of 87. It shouldn’t have been a huge surprise — Ginsburg, affectionately referred to as “RBG,” had faced multiple battles with cancer, and she had been hospitalized and undergone surgery many times over the last few years, for a variety of ailments. Nevertheless, word of her passing struck devastation and fear into the hearts of many Americans.
A lot of Americans saw RBG as one of the very last hopes for women’s rights on the Supreme Court. Within recent years, Republicans have been ramping up attacks against the laws and precedents protecting hard-won women’s rights. With Trump’s newest additions to the Supreme Court, there is now a Republican majority on the court, and most of those Republican Justices seem to be willing to undermine those laws and precedents, including the ever-important Roe v. Wade decision, in order to give Republican politicians a “win” for their base.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was officially announced by NPR around 7:30 last night.
Not even a full two hours later, around 9:00 PM, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a statement claiming that he and the full Senate will be voting as soon as possible to fill Justice Ginsburg’s vacant SCOTUS seat. The nominee, of course, will be put forth by Donald Trump.
I’ve never been good at math. In fact, I failed Algebra 2 as a junior in high school. However, the numbers seem pretty clear, even to me, in this situation.
When Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, there were 269 days until the General Election. At that time, Mitch McConnell refused to even consider a nomination (Merrick Garland) put forth by President Obama, because he claimed it was “too close to the election,” and he made the argument on the Senate floor that the American people should, in essence, pick their own Justice to take Scalia’s place through their vote for president that fall.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, there were 46 days until the General Election. However, this time, with Donald Trump in the White House and making the Supreme Court nominations, Mitch McConnell is now calling for Ginsburg’s seat to be filled immediately, maybe before she’s even mourned and buried.
So, in 2016, 269 days supposedly put us too close to an election to vote in a new Supreme Court Justice, but in 2020, 46 days until the election is now a perfectly acceptable time to vote in a new Supreme Court Justice.
I don’t know how I can spell it out any clearer. Anyone with even the most basic reading comprehension and math skills can clearly see that McConnell has contradicted his 2016 self entirely, and the hypocrisy is so strong, it’s nauseating.
I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, or boot-licking Trump sycophant: that statement put out by Mitch McConnell last night, as well as his hypocrisy, should upset and disgust every last true American.
It’s funny how McConnell loves to lecture others about “patriotism” and the his perceived sanctity of the Unite States Constitution, but when it comes to getting what he wants, when it comes to accumulating more power and influence for the Republican party overall, he’s willing to throw all of those self-proclaimed values right out the window.
Unfortunately, I understand that half the country is too busy screaming “fake news” at everything they see or hear or read to even process the things Mitch McConnell is doing (and not doing) to their country and their own lives. Last time I checked the numbers, McConnell had over 400 bills sitting on his desk, most of them having already passed the House, and he bragged about letting them “die” there, never allowing them to be put up for a vote on the Senate floor. Because of McConnell’s refusal to vote on legislation, like the Senate was meant to do, it’s received a new nickname: the legislative graveyard. And it seemed to fill him with pride when McConnel was subsequently nicknamed “The Grim Reaper.”
Why? Because, for the last four years, the only thing that has mattered to McConnell is placing record-breaking numbers of conservative federal judges in courts all across the country, including the two conservatives (Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) he and Trump managed to place on the Supreme Court. All of those judges are fulfilling lifetime appointments, so the repercussions of McConnell’s and Trump’s actions will be felt for generations to come.
As of July 2, 2020, McConnell and Trump have appointed 200 federal judges, “almost a quarter of all active federal judges in the United States.” That was accomplished in less than four years. In comparison, during his entire eight years in office, President Obama only appointed a grand total of 312 judges, meaning that Trump has surpassed Obama in regards to the pace with which judges have been appointed.
And now, despite the arguments he made back in 2016, it looks like McConnell will try to appoint yet one more conservative judge, this time to the Supreme Court, just 45 days before a major election.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, cares nothing about our country or its people. Mitch McConnell cares about accumulating and maintaining power for himself and his party. Mitch McConnell decided a long time ago that he would always put party over country. And he’s proud of that.
McConnell, as leader of the Senate, has spent the last four years focusing entirely on federal judges, while ignoring the needs of the people he’s sworn to serve.
I have to ask: Republicans, aren’t you tired of the games McConnell plays? Aren’t you tired of him pissing on the Constitution you supposedly hold so dear whenever it benefits him personally? Aren’t you tired of legislation dying on McConnell’s desk when that very legislation could create positive change in your own day-to-day life? Do you really care so much about appointing Trump’s judges that you’re willing to allow the Senate to abandon their most fundamental duties?
Mitch McConnell has represented the state of Kentucky in the Senate for 35 years. Aside from letting the government shut down repeatedly and not allowing bills that have been passed by the House to even have a vote on the Senate floor, what accomplishments of his can you name off the top of your head? What great, respectable things has he done for this country?
Yeah. I don’t know, either.
McConnell is up for election this year. He’s facing a serious contender in Amy McGrath, who formerly served as a Marine fighter pilot who participated in combat missions against al-Quaeda and the Taliban.
If you’re as tired of McConnell’s hypocrisy, his cold heart, and his political games as I am, there are a few things you can do.
First, you can donate to Amy McGrath’s campaign, so she stands a better shot of taking McConnell out of the Senate entirely. Here is her campaign website, where you can learn more about McGrath, her policies, and why she believes she would make a better Senator than Mitch McConnell has made for the last 35 years. This website is also where you can donate to McGrath’s campaign. — https://amymcgrath.com/
Second, you can call your Senator’s office directly and demand that the Senate not fill RBG’s vacant seat until after the American people have spoken through the 2020 presidential election. Remind them of the Senate’s position back in 2016 to not even vote on President Obama’s nominee because it was an election year.
Senator Mike Braun’s local office: 317-822-8240
Senator Braun’s D.C. office: 202-224-4814
Senator Todd Young’s local office: 317-226-6700
Senator Young’s D.C. office: 202-224-5623
You can also call Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office at 202-224-2541
Third, you need to VOTE. If we go out this November and overwhelmingly elect Democrats to the Senate and turn both houses of Congress blue, even if McConnell remains Senator of Kentucky, he will no longer rule like a king over the Senate. If Democrats take the majority in the Senate, we take control back. Better yet, if Democrats take the Senate, the House, and the White House, imagine how much legislation we could pass to make this country truly a better place for all.
Vote. Encourage your friends to vote. Volunteer to make calls or knock on doors. Drive people who need a ride back and forth from their polling location. Make donations to your local, state, and national candidates. You can make a huge impact on this year’s election by doing the smallest, simplest things. That’s what democracy is all about. Even if Mitch McConnell has forgotten what makes our country great, we haven’t, and we need to prove that this November.
We can stop the stupid political games. We can take Mitch McConnell and his Republican cronies out of power. We can elect a United States Government that respects the rules and norms of this country.
We cannot let those who practice hypocrisy, put party over country, and employ double-standards harm this country that we love.
We can stop them.