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McConnell to Social Conservatives: Holding Garland Was 'Most Consequential Decision' of Career

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to the 2018 Values Voters Summit in Washington on Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the Values Voter Summit this morning that holding the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court has been one of his greatest achievements in the upper chamber.

President Obama nominated Garland to the high court in March 2016 after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell led the charge to keep Garland, chief judge on the U.S. Courts of Appeals in D.C., from even making it to the confirmation hearing stage, arguing that eight months out from a presidential election was too close to consider a nomination from the party who occupied the White House at the time.

McConnell said at the Family Research Council event that he’s often asked what it’s like to be majority leader; he declared it’s “actually a little bit like being the groundskeeper at a cemetery: everybody is under you, but nobody’s listening.”

“So what does the majority leader get to do that the other 99 don’t? We have a very tiny majority of 51-49, but the majority leader gets to decide what we’re going to do,” he said, adding that “the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire career is decision not to do something, and that was to not fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia in the middle of the presidential election. Let the American people decide who they want to make this lifetime appointment.”

“Well, it turns out that one of the most consequential decisions I ever made led to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch.”

McConnell noted that “it’s not just the Supreme Court” but “the district courts, the circuit courts and the Supreme Court” that he’s trying to shape.

“A very, very small number of cases make it to the Supreme Court. The circuit courts are where most complex litigation ends. We — the president’s nominated, and we’ve confirmed 26 circuit court judges. This is the fastest pace in the history of our country. And there will be more before the end of the year. These are lifetime appointments,” he continued. “If you want to have a long-time impact on what kind of country we’re going to have for the next generation, the single most consequential thing we can do is these lifetime appointments of men and women to the court who believe that the job of a judge is to follow the law. It shouldn’t be controversial.”

The majority leader vowed that “if we can hold onto the Senate majority for two more years, we’re going to transform the federal judiciary.”

Before possible testimony next week from nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teens, McConnell said today that “in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.”

“I’m now in my 34th year in the Senate. Hard to believe. This has been — if you want America to be a right of center nation, this last year and a half has been the best year and a half of my time in the Senate,” McConnell said. “And the reason you should know that, look how angry the left is, huh?”