Mitch McConnell is going to win (again)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell makes the case for the Senate voting on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, six weeks before the presidential election, despite blocking Obama's nominee in March of 2016 because it was too close to the election.

Posted: Sep 22, 2020 12:11 PM
Updated: Sep 22, 2020 12:11 PM

We won't even know who President Donald Trump's pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court will be until late this week, but we know now for (almost) certain that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has the votes to confirm the pick to the court.

The last 72 hours have made that much clear. On Tuesday morning, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney announced that he supports a vote on Trump's nominee. "I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President's nominee," he said in a statement. "If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications."

Romney's decision comes two days after retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that he supported a vote on Trump's eventual nominee before the election, eliminating perhaps the single most likely GOPer to join Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine in opposition to confirming a Supreme Court justice this close to a presidential election. Then, on Monday, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who is an underdog for a second term this November, said that he too backed a vote before the election. As did Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa who had, in the past, expressed significant reservations about trying to confirm a justice in the waning days of an election.

And with those critical dominoes, any experienced vote-counter can see the writing on the wall: This nomination is going to go through -- and McConnell is going to win.

Here's why. McConnell can afford to lose three Republican senators and still have the 50 votes he needs to end debate on the eventual nominee (aka invoke cloture) and confirm the person to the court. (The change in filibuster rules, which was begun by then-Senate Majority Harry Reid in 2013 for appeals court judges, opened this Pandora's box.)

Murkowski and Collins are two. McConnell actually could have afforded to lose Romney's vote and still get the nominee through. Now that he has Romney in the fold, McConnell has even more wiggle room -- although he's not likely to need it.

Yes, it's never over until it's over. And yes, there is a group of senators who haven't announced their positions on the confirmation vote -- most notably retiring Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. Roberts, like Alexander, is a seen as part of the Republican old guard and someone who might worry about the precedent being set by trying to push a nominee through so close to an election. And without a reelection race ever again to worry about, Roberts can act on his conscience.

But with Romney and Alexander now backing McConnell, it's extremely hard to believe that Roberts would come out in opposition to the vote -- knowing that it wouldn't change anything. A Roberts "no" on the eventual nominee still would leave McConnell with 50 "yes" votes -- and the nominee would be confirmed. Why charge at that windmill if you are Roberts, a lifelong conservative with little interest in making news at the end of his career?

Like him or hate him, you have to hand it to McConnell. He has, again, proven that he commands the almost total loyalty of his GOP conference. As McConnell did with the contentious Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by a 50-48 vote, he has demonstrated that when the pressure is on, he is able to line up votes like very few leaders before him.

Barring some sort of major development to derail the process -- if, say, Trump went off script and picked someone seen as far too extreme -- McConnell is going to have played the critical role in confirming three Supreme Court justices over the last four years and fundamentally altering the ideological makeup of the court for decades to come. And that's not even considering the hundreds -- literally -- of federal judges below the Supreme Court level that Trump has nominated and McConnell has confirmed through the Senate.

"You know what Mitch's biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges," Trump told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in December 2019. "He will absolutely ask me, please let's get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors."

And now, with the near-certain confirmation of fully one third of the court over the last four years, McConnell's legacy is complete. He will go down as one of the most consequential Senate leaders in modern history, overseeing a massive ideological overhaul of the judiciary branch from the bottom all the way to the top. And there's not a damn thing Democrats can do about it.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 604184

Reported Deaths: 7620
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248631774
Ramsey52480895
Dakota46804470
Anoka42746458
Washington27416291
Stearns22552224
St. Louis18137312
Scott17548135
Wright16370149
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Sherburne1201295
Carver1066448
Clay825892
Rice8196110
Blue Earth762543
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667885
Chisago619752
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461251
Itasca459263
Isanti439964
McLeod430361
Morrison424662
Nobles407950
Beltrami407561
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386655
Lyon363853
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Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311654
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Renville182446
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Wadena162823
Fillmore157410
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Pennington153820
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Watonwan13579
Rock128719
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Swift106918
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Stevens92411
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Marshall88817
Wilkin83213
Lake83120
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Big Stone6044
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Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
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Unassigned48293
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Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370914

Reported Deaths: 6048
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58232640
Linn21204339
Scott20306247
Black Hawk16119312
Woodbury15238230
Johnson1461585
Dubuque13506211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11223174
Story1071448
Warren583991
Clinton561493
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Sioux517074
Webster515494
Muscatine4880106
Marshall486676
Des Moines467271
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth402981
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288261
Carroll286852
Crawford268540
Boone268434
Benton259655
Washington256751
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211871
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198535
Page194522
Buchanan193733
Cedar192223
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166235
Madison164619
Mills163724
Floyd163342
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152652
Hancock150234
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
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Emmet135841
Jefferson133435
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
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Franklin123323
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Howard104922
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Ida91535
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Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
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