For The Billionth Time, Mitch McConnell's The Bad Guy Not Harry Reid
We periodically have to remind people that Mitch McConnell is evil. He was born this way, and there's nothing specific Democrats could've done to make his heart grow three sizes on Christmas Eve. A popular urban legend is that Harry Reid nuking the filibuster in 2013 paved the way for Mitch McConnell to pack the courts with right-wing hacks. Journalist Julia Ioffe tweeted the following yesterday:
This is not a great take. Yeah, it sucks that an illegitimate. impeached president will leave a mark on the federal judiciary that won't go away any time soon. But it's not Harry Reid's fault. We've been through this. Reid wasn't the first Senate majority leader to threaten nuking the filibuster. Republican Bill Frist threatened to do so in 2005, and Reid negotiated to save the filibuster. It just cost us a few right-wing extremists on the court. Cut to 2013 and the GOP minority had blocked three of Barack Obama's judicial picks in a row with no deal in sight when Reid finally said enough was enough. Yr. Wonkette confesses that we thought he wouldn't have the nerve. "They started it!" is an annoying argument that blames Reid for McConnell's perfidy. McConnell could've restored the filibuster but he didn't want Donald Trump to face the same obstruction Obama had. McConnell once claimed that if Americans wanted Obama to pick judges or staff they would've given him a Senate supermajority -- you know, again. He's fine with completely different rules for Trump, whose judicial picks have mostly skirted through with bare majorities.
McConnell likes to gloat about robbing judicial vacancies from Obama. He's even written a book about his evil scheme to reshape the judiciary for generations.
If Reid hadn't nuked the filibuster, it defies logic to imagine that McConnell would've tolerated Democrats blocking even a handful of the unqualified Federal Society centerfolds that Trump has nominated. This year, McConnell even reduced the amount of time spent debating judges from 30 hours (the total length of a decades-running BBC series) to just two hours (roughly half the length of an Avengers movie). He argued that Democrats "started this whole thing" when they blocked one specific judge during Bush's first term. Senate Republicans' actions since then were hardly a proportional response, but that's not the point. The court-packing is McConnell's most cherished achievement. He's not a "nice" gangster who was forced to escalate against his personal wishes. He was always the worst gangster you could imagine. The only reason he doesn't just collapse in fits of diabolical laughter when announcing the latest rule change is that he believes moderates are dumb enough to fall for his blatant lies. He's unfortunately correct that blaming Democrats for Republican dirty tricks is a national pundit pastime.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.