President Donald Trump and U. S. Sen. Mitch McConnell are either the best two politicians in Washington or both of them are luckier than an outhouse rat. This odd couple pairing resulted in Trump getting a 5-4 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that likely will go to 6-3 later this year when another judge is chosen to replace Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who is retiring.
Confirmation is virtually assured for the nominee, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Cavanaugh, a 12year veteran of the appellate bench in the District of Columbia.
This president draws daily media and Democratic criticism for lying, for his crude comments on Twitter, for his shabby treatment of our foreign allies, and for his efforts to discredit the news media.
Yet, thanks to Sen. McConnell’s political skills, Trump will have an unprecedented role in choosing the federal judges who administer the rule of law for the rest of his time in office and for decades to come.
That’s why Republicans and Democrats will battle tooth and nail this summer over Cavanaugh’s confirmation for the open seat.
The results of that tussle also could influence this year’s midterm elections for the House and Senate, a critical point for a first-term president.
Trump is in the driver’s seat because of McConnell’s bold power grab in 2016 when he kept then President Obama from replacing the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
That seat went in 2017 to Justice Neil Gorsuch who has been the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions this year, including the upholding of Trump’s twice-rewritten travel ban targeting Muslim nations and the exclusion of public employees from paying union dues.
At McConnell’s insistence, advice to the White House on new judicial appointments now comes from the conservative Federalist Society, not the American Bar Association, ending a 65-year process that began under President Eisenhower.
Regardless of the duration of his unusual, populist presidency, we will have to live with Trump’s judicial legacy for at least a generation.