Federal Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in March 2016. March. As in eight months before the election. However, that nomination never reached the Senate floor.
Even before President Obama named Garland—long on the list of judges who were considered highly qualified for the court—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already driven a stake in the nomination. And not just Garland’s nomination, but any nomination. Speaking just hours after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, McConnell declared that any nomination by Obama was “null and void.” Instead, said McConnell, “The American people should have a say in the court's direction.” McConnell insisted that presidents could not be allowed to name a judge in the last year of their term, not with the election looming. Democrats urged a vote. Court historians and legal scholars urged a vote. McConnell sat smugly, refusing to even consider bringing the nominee to the floor. Returning to Kentucky in 2017, McConnell was still crowing about this accomplishment. "One of my proudest moments,” said the Republican leader, “was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’"
With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing away just 45 days before the next election, for McConnell to act on any nomination by Trump would make him the most blatant hypocrite the world has ever seen. So of course he will do it.
McConnell has already made it clear exactly what he intends to do. Because as long as he is creating rules straight from his ass, why even pretend that there’s anything like integrity involved? Asked about exactly this situation as a hypothetical, McConnell explained that the ‘no nominees in the final year of a president’s term’ rule no longer applied, because there this ‘rule’ is not in effect if the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party—something he failed to mention previously. “Oh, we’d fill it,” McConnell said in 2019 of a hypothetical opening on the court.
Donald Trump has just finished off a list of candidates who are the slobbering wet dreams of everyone who ever wanted to snuff the last candle of democracy. That list includes Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. With McConnell running the process, the only threat to having any of them take a lifetime seat will be the elbows thrown by others. And those three aren’t even the worst choices Trump could make.
Hell, it’s not outside the realm of the possible that Donald Trump could name Donald Trump to the Supreme Court.
But whatever name goes on the list, the threat to the nation is enormous and the prospect of halting McConnell would take a miracle. We could ask Justice Ginsburg to send us one, but after such long and dedicated service, a grateful nation is going to have to let her rest and try our best to take up the slack.