Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is far less concerned about short term gains under a Republican president than he is about ensuring conservative influence for generations to come -- regardless how the electorate swings from election to election.
And he believes one of the greatest moments in his career was blocking former President Barack Obama's appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court after the unexpected passing of Justice Antonin Scalia.
In an interview with Kentucky Today, McConnell said more significant that the historic tax bill passed last year is the quick succession of federal judges moving through the confirmation process.
“I believe that’s the most important thing we’re doing,” McConnell told members of the Kentucky Today editorial board in an interview on Tuesday. “You’ve heard me say before that I thought the decision I made not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy when Justice Scalia died was the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire public career. The things that will last the longest time, those are my top priorities.”
McConnell said he reached out to the White House general counsel shortly after Trump’s election, encouraging him to move quickly with nominations of judges in their 40s and 50s.
“I said ‘we’ve got a chance to transform the country in a very significant way for the next generation if we can get our act together,’” McConnell said.
The Senate confirmed 12 federal circuit judges within President Donald Trump's first year in office, which McConnell says is the most confirmations in any president's first year since 1891, when the circuit courts were established.
McConnell said he’s hopeful Republicans can hold a majority in the Senate and continue appointing conservative judges throughout the entirety of Trump’s tenure.
“This is going to be a challenging election year,” McConnell said. “We know the wind is going to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5.”
Losing the House is less a concern for the Republican leader.
“I’m hoping we can hold the Senate,” he said, “And the principle reason for that, even if we were to lose the House and be stymied legislatively, we could still approve appointments, which is a huge part of what we do.”