U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come up with an interesting approach to the game of life. If you don’t like the rules, you simply ignore them or change them. And this attitude is expansive, going beyond his duties in the legislative branch and beyond Capitol Hill.
In 2016, he reached into the executive branch of government, when he unilaterally decided to block the right of a sitting president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in a timely manner. Moments after Justice Antonin Scalia died, McConnell declared he would hold that seat open for someone he preferred. Since 1789, filling a Supreme Court vacancy had been the purview of a sitting president, but whoosh, that option was removed. And he did keep it vacant, for 14 months. There was no public hearing, no public vote for nominee Judge Merrick Garland, who never made it to the batter’s box.
McConnell next turned his attention to revising the rules for the judicial branch. He vaulted over the obstacle that his designated hitter, Neil Gorsuch, did not meet the 60-vote threshold. McConnell then decided to change that rule so that only 51 votes would be required for a life-time Supreme Court appointment. It was as though he were picking a small-town county clerk, instead of weighing the national significance of this appointment, for decades to come. With four sitting Justices now ranging in age from 68 to 84, McConnell will probably have more chances to play kingmaker at the Supreme Court as well as in federal judicial vacancies around the country, including in Alexandria and in Richmond.
Not content with perceiving any limits to his power, what if McConnell’s new approach carries over to the realm of sports? What if he decides that instead of three strikes, you can have four or five before you are out? Or if nine baseball players are too few to have on the field and 11 football players are too many? And will we really need any referees or umpires if someone like McConnell will now call the rules, both off and on the field?
Kathleen M. Burns