During my first year at Lewis & Clark in my Comparative Politics class, my political science professor referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “master of parliamentary procedure.” Over the past three years, I have pondered over this statement and studied the senator’s various actions. After taking great interest in his political schemes, I have come to the conclusion that McConnell’s political strategies are purely based in conservative ideology and meeting the desires of Republicans, rather than all Americans, in order to expand his own political command and career. Politicians like McConnell make it our obligation, as students, to study our government’s legislative and judicial process considering they create laws that affect our current and future wellbeing.
McConnell’s current plan to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court is a perfect example of the senator’s abuse of power. Following the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), the majority leader released a statement acknowledging that, “The Senate and the nation mourn the sudden passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life” but that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” McConnell’s statement on RBG’s passing came across as minimal and inauthentic because his intentions of stacking conservative courts and increasing his political power were plainly visible.
The Senate majority leader possesses an incredible amount of control over what happens on the Senate floor. While the majority leader is expected to balance the viewing and voting of bills from both parties, McConnell, over the years, has expedited the voting and passing of conservative bills and procrastinated the execution of liberal ones.
The senator has received ample criticism from both liberal and conservative voters for rushing Barrett’s nomination given what he said in 2016. Four years ago, former President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court nearly eight months before the general election. McConnell was adamant that a new justice should not be confirmed by a “lame duck” president.
“The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide,” McConnell said in 2016. “The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”
These words have carried no weight considering McConnell is now fervently pushing for Barrett to be the next Supreme Court justice, despite the nomination taking place less than a month before the election. It is ironically frustrating to watch McConnell take away the nation’s voice that he so firmly advocated for just four years ago.
According to a report completed by Barry J. McMillion, an analyst of the federal judiciary since 1975, the average number of days it takes to confirm a new Supreme Court justice is 67 days (2.2 months), while the median is 71 days ( 2.3 months). The confirmation of a new justice has always been a lengthy process and McConnell’s fast-tracking of the nomination is not only disrespectful to the late justice, but it compromises and ignores a centuries-old judicial process designed to select a justice most qualified for the position. The dismantling of U.S. governmental proceedings is clearly not an issue for McConnell, so long as his political power and standing continue to grow.
With Barrett’s nomination being his priority issue, McConnell has blocked or suspended voting on more than 275 bills. These bills include providing COVID-19 funding for millions of Americans, USPS funding, fighting voter suppression, raising the federal minimum wage and addressing climate change. They also include implementing immigration reform, protecting the LGBTQ+ community, instituting gun violence reform, making healthcare more affordable for all Americans and reallocating funds within our country’s police departments. McConnell’s aim to mold a future dominated by conservative leadership delays the addressing of other crucial issues, especially ones related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If McConnell has proven anything as the Senate majority leader, it is his belief that the well-being of Americans falls short to his own political ideals.
I feel our everyday news cycles are dominated by the happenings of the executive branch, instead of including all branches. LC students should investigate our government’s legislative and judicial process. While a good majority of legislative and judicial affairs happen behind closed doors, it is our job, as politically aware and invested college students, to actively question and challenge political leaders like McConnell who work to skew the judicial system in ways that will damage our futures. Enroll in a political science course, read a professor’s article on legislative and judicial review or join College Democrats. There are so many ways to learn about and change the ways our representatives represent us. This may not seem like an immediate concern considering our world is currently turned upside down by COVID-19, but McConnell’s current political yieldings will create consequences that will affect our generation for years to come. It is our obligation to this earth, to future generations and to ourselves to prevent such yieldings from becoming irreversible.