Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was first elected in 1984, but says his biggest achievement to date is something that didn’t happen.
“My decision not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during the 2016 election was the most consequential decision I’ve ever made,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday night at The Heritage Foundation President’s Club meeting in Washington.
After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to the high court. But McConnell decided that voters should make that call by their decision in the November 2016 election.
Since then, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s two nominees, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh on Oct. 6, to the Supreme Court.
McConnell noted the Senate also confirmed 29 federal appeals judges that Trump has nominated, a record for an administration in its first two years.
Moreover, he Senate majority leader raid, they are judges who understand that the role of jurists is to rule based on the law and the Constitution, rather than on their personal opinions—a departure from Obama’s preference for judges to have “empathy.”
“The kind of people President Trump is sending, and we’ve been confirming, are people who understand what the role of a judge is,” McConnell said.
He later added: “The closest thing to permanency we can achieve is putting the right kind of men and women on the courts.”
The Republican leader discussed the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, insisting that GOP senators stood up for the presumption of innocence and against the mob trying to intimidate members of the Senate.
In the 11th hour of the confirmation fight, Democrats introduced allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when both were teenagers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.—viewed by some as a liberal Republican—was on fire at the confirmation hearing, denouncing Democrats for what he and other critics called their smear tactics.
“If this was not the bottom, I’d hate to see it,” Graham said at the Heritage event Tuesday night.
Graham discussed the Kavanaugh confirmation during an interview in front of an audience with John Malcolm, Heritage’s vice president in charge of the think tank’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
He praised a colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also considered a more liberal Republican, who delivered a strong and persuasive speech on the Senate floor in favor of Kavanaugh.
“Susan Collins rocks,” Graham said, adding: “In the history of the Senate, her speech will be an example of what ‘advise and consent’ is all about.”
Graham presented a scenario of what would happen if a Democratic president nominated someone to the Supreme Court, and Republicans employed the same tactics with the same timing.
The South Carolina Republican said the media would attack the GOP and disregard the accuser. In this case, he said, the media joined Democrats in the smear.
“What we learned is how far in the tank the press is for Democrats,” Graham said.
Regarding Ford’s accusations, he said he believed something happened to her, but he doesn’t believe it was Kavanaugh who did it.
Graham, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said he has come a long way in his opinion of Trump. He said he was heartened by a list of potential Supreme Court nominees compiled by The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, which Trump embraced.
“I saw that list, and I said, ‘OK,’” Graham said, referring to his prior skepticism of Trump. “I was afraid he was going to pick [TV’s] Judge Judy. This is something we can work with.”