With impeachment over, McConnell returns to confirming judicial nominees

No wonder Democrats hate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

McConnell turned to prepare for votes on five of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees — just minutes after his party voted to acquit the president of impeachment. The Senate leader received acknowledgments from Trump this week for his leadership in the impeachment fight, as well as his role in a judicial blitzkrieg that has seen a record number of conservative judges confirmed, including two Supreme Court Justices.

McConnell pivots from impeachment to judges

Democrats frequently targeted McConnell throughout the impeachment over his plans to acquit President Trump with as little delay as possible. McConnell defeated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a stalemate over witnesses and ultimately led his party to victory by uniting the GOP behind Trump.

With impeachment over, McConnell isn’t wasting any time getting back to court-packing. He set up five judicial nominees to be confirmed next week, starting with Andrew Brasher for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Thanks to a change in debate rules on district court nominees that McConnell shepherded, all five judges could be confirmed next week. The Senate will take up Brasher’s nomination on Monday, and then consider nominations for Joshua Kindred, Matthew Schelp, Joshua Kness, and Philip Halpern to U.S. district courts.

Working closely with McConnell, Trump has confirmed 187 federal judges thus far, including Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Republicans — and panicked progressives — have said that the high number of judges confirmed is one of President Trump’s most important legacies.

Trump praises Mitch

At his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump acknowledged McConnell’s role in leading the historic judicial push. And in a wild victory speech at the White House on Thursday, Trump thanked McConnell for his leadership in the impeachment fight, touted his role in confirming judges, and ribbed the senator for being hard to read.

“You did a fantastic job,” Trump told McConnell. “He’s a tough guy to read. I’m good at reading people. Tough guy to read. I’d call him, my wife would say, ‘how’d you do with Mitch?’ ‘Uh … I don’t know!'” Trump said to laughter. “That’s what makes him good! When you can read somebody … fantastic job. And he understood right from the [start] this was crooked politics,” Trump said of the impeachment.

Trump acknowledged that McConnell has had many primary challengers over the years, but they’ve all been “wiped out so fast.” The president added that McConnell had worked to confirm “191 [judges] now,” referring to the latest picks.

McConnell defeats impeachment

The president was acquitted in an almost entirely party-line vote Wednesday, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) being the only GOP defection. McConnell hailed Trump’s acquittal vote, saying it’s what the Framers of the Constitution would have wanted, tweeting Wednesday:

Moments like this are what the Senate was made for. The Framers knew the country would need a firewall to keep partisan flames from scorching our Republic. So they created the Senate. Today, we will fulfill this founding purpose.

Democrats have said that McConnell rigged the trial in Trump’s favor and that the president’s acquittal is not legitimate. Pelosi called him a “rogue leader.”

They can call him what they want, but McConnell doesn’t seem to care. And with Trump bouncing back from an impeachment victory, McConnell may be just the beginning of their worries.

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