Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a master tactician and an expert at Senate procedures and rules.
He knows how to bend the institution to get what he wants and he is ruthless and dispassionate about it.
Results matter more than words and Mitch is delivering for Trump on his pledge to remake the federal bench.
Mitch and Trump have already exceeded every expectation but we still have months left in Trump’s first term and Mitch is not slowing down.
Now, according to a report from the Courier-Journal, Mitch is quietly talking to older judges close to retirement and asking them to do so now while Mitch and Trump can guarantee a young conservative replacement that will serve for a generation. Smart politics.
From The Courier-Journal:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is quietly making phone calls to senior federal judges and urging them to step aside ahead of the 2020 election, The Courier-Journal has learned.
A source familiar with the Kentucky leader’s thinking described Monday how McConnell is personally reaching out to judges appointed by past Republican presidents.
“Yes, he has made calls,” said a longtime McConnell confidant who asked for anonymity in order to speak freely.
McConnell is making the requests because he wants time to replace the judges with new conservative-minded jurists, the source indicated.
It is unclear when McConnell started making this push, and if it has continued as Kentucky and the country continue to focus on the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting at age 65, a judge may retire at his or her current salary or take senior status (a form of semiretirement) after 15 years of active service, according to uscourts.gov.
The effort underscores how the GOP leader might be concerned about Republicans losing their Senate majority in the fall or President Donald Trump failing to be reelected.
McConnell’s office downplayed those concerns in a statement Monday.
“I’d point you back to his (long-running) mantra of ‘leave no vacancy behind,’” McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said Monday. “He’s been telegraphing this as far back as June.”
McConnell’s mission in the past three years has been reshaping the U.S. judiciary at a breakneck pace. Such a move has further infuriated Democrats and liberal-leaning groups who are still steaming at his decision to block former President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat in 2016.
In December, the tandem of Trump and McConnell placed its 50th federal judge on the bench, falling only a few nominations short of what former Obama did over the course of two terms.
“I think putting strict constructionists on the courts is the single biggest way you can have a long-term impact on the country,” McConnell told The Courier Journal in October 2018.