The GOP may have only a few more months of unified control of Washington to repeal Obamacare or enact President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. But the Senate majority leader is taking a longer view — and confirming as many conservative judges as possible to lifetime appointments.
The move will show conservative voters that the Senate can still get things done even if Republicans lose the House and is part of McConnell’s years-long plan to reshape the courts after the presidency of Barack Obama shifted them to the left. Since becoming majority leader in 2015, the Kentucky Republican stymied Obama’s nominees for two years, including blocking a Supreme Court hopeful. And now he’s going into overdrive with Trump as president.
Trump has already nominated 69 judges, but there are 149 total vacancies. GOP leaders say McConnell is intent on filling as many as he can this year, in part out of concern that Democrats take back the Senate and exact retribution on McConnell and Trump for changing the face of the courts.
“You have to be realistic about it and go into it with an expectation that [losing the Senate] is a possibility. And for that reason, I think it’s important that we move judiciously to get done as many as we can,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader.