Mitch McConnell has demonstrated a clear ability — and a tendency — to play hardball politics whenever the need arises in his own pointed head.
Think about how the Senate Republican leader can manipulate things in the event the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate after the 2022 midterm election.
Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer might retire from the court. Say, he does so at the end of the current term, which arrives in late June or early July 2022. President Biden has to select a nominee immediately after such a retirement occurs. McConnell well might decide to throw up roadblocks anticipating a GOP takeover of the Senate in November 2022.
What might occur, then, if the GOP wins a Senate majority, seats a new Senate in January 2023 and Biden’s SCOTUS nominee still hasn’t had a hearing, let alone a vote? I’ll tell you what’ll happen. The GOP-led Senate could scuttle a Biden choice and then McConnell could decide to replay the tactic he used in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court, but McConnell torpedoed the nomination, refusing to grant Garland a hearing. Why? Because we had an election months away and McConnell said the next president deserved the right to select someone. The next president happened to be Donald J. Trump and, well, you know the rest of it.
This all seems to give a Breyer decision on whether he stays on the court a good bit more of a time urgency. I don’t expect Justice Breyer to act on the wishes of others around him. He is entitled to walk away on his own terms and on his own schedule.
The nation’s highest court, though, does not need or deserve to be kicked around like the political football some in the Senate have made it out to be.