Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) fell apart and could only nervously laugh as Meet The Press host Chuck Todd called him out on not allowing a vote on Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Mitch McConnell cannot answer why he refused to allow even a vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. pic.twitter.com/iOuE9e14fS
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) April 2, 2017
Chuck Todd opened this clip with a whopper of an opportunity for McConnell to see where the interview was going and try to find a shred of integrity with which to save himself. Todd asked, “Do you have any regrets on how you treated Merrick Garland (President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee) last year?”
Instead, McConnell chose to double down on an already debunked lie, “No, the tradition had been not to confirm uh vacancies created in the middle of a presidential year. You’d have to go back 80 years to find the last time that happened. It goes back to 1880s to find the last time it happened.”
Then McConnell claimed that everyone knew if the shoe had been on the other foot, Democrats would not have filled a Republican seat in a presidential election year, which not only is inaccurate and nothing but hopeful projection, but is quite a joke considering how eager Democrats were under Obama to roll over and let Republicans stab them in the back just to help the people. McConnell mixed up his words here and was already showing signs of tripping over his lie.
This is typical McConnell, dishing out his already debunked lie to a usually willing press who rarely if ever call him out on the spot.
But Chuck Todd wasn’t having it this Sunday. Chuck Todd called McConnell out. And it is a thing of beauty.
Todd charged, “Well, I understand that, and that’s a rationale to vote against his confirmation. Why not put him up for a vote?”
McConnell expressed his shock at being called out on the specific way his lie doesn’t hold up, even if it were true (and it’s not). “Really?” McConnell asked.
Todd, “Look I”m just asking -”
McConnell again, “Really?” Nervous laugh.
Todd, “Any senator can have a rationale not to vote for a confirmation. Why not put Merrick Garland on the floor and if the rationale is, ‘you know what, too close to an election’, then vote no.”
Mitch McConnell tried his pompous laugh, the one he uses when he tells reporters that he won’t be talking about that topic today, “huh huh huh.”
But it went nowhere, and it sounded nervous.
Taking a deep sucking breath, McConnell launched into a sputterfest, ” Look, ah, I-ah, wa- we were we litigated that last year. The American people decided they wanted Donald Trump to make the nomination, not Hillary Clinton, and what’s before us now Chuck is not what happened last year but the qualifications of Neil Gorsuch.”
McConnell listed off why there were supposedly no principled reasons to vote against Gorsuch.
That’s an interestingly bad choice of defenses, because people got to hear Neil Gorsuch’s qualifications because he was given a hearing, unlike Merrick Garland. And this was exactly Chuck Todd’s point.
Todd explained that it has not actually been litigated according to many Democratic Senators who believe Merrick Garland was mistreated. McConnell tried his laugh again but Todd didn’t leave it.
“Again, what was wrong with allowing Merrick Garland to have an up or down vote?” Todd pushed.
McConnell dug himself back into his old debunked lie, the one where he points at Joe Biden for something Biden said (not did) and cries, “He did it first, mommy!”
Todd ignored the lie and put McConnell in the corner of his own making, asking him if he was prepared to make that a Senate rule, that no Supreme Court nominee would be confirmed in election years, and pointing out how ridiculous it was, he asked if we were headed to not confirming in any even numbered year.
McConnell fake laughed again, attempting to sound condescending, but once again fell short.
McConnell’s exact claim was debunked over a year ago by PolitiFact, and pretty much anyone with a working brain. There is no “longstanding tradition” of not filling a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential election year.
In March of 2016, PolitiFact ruled on this exact McConnell dodge, and gave it a “false”.
The truth is the Republican Party broke 230 years of precedent by refusing to even let Justice Garland have a hearing, and this was Chuck Todd’s point.
Mitch McConnell led the charge in this ridiculous, unprecedented obstruction and denial of the power the people had given President Obama, not once but twice- with a much larger win than President Trump, and unlike Trump, there were no concerns about illegitimacy hanging over Obama’s head, except by those conspiracy mongers like now President Trump. On the other hand, Trump is under multiple investigations for possible collusion against the U.S. with the Russian government.
Mitch McConnell is rarely called to account for his gross mistreatment of Merrick Garland and indeed the entire Senate and three branches of government system. It was a big moment to watch Chuck Todd call McConnell out, and when McConnell trotted out his usual lies, Todd swerved expertly around the lies to bring them home to their naturally ridiculous conclusion.
The real situation here is McConnell has no legitimate reason for his unprecedented obstruction of Merrick Garland, and he can hardly cling to the rules or tradition as his life jacket since he has been destroying tradition and rules since Obama took office.
Now facing the possible obstruction of a much less qualified and less reasonable person than Merrick Garland, who is a moderate and respected across the aisle unlike the right wing extremist Neil Gorsuch, McConnell will say and do anything to try to bully Democrats into finishing his dirty work. But Democrats are set to filibuster. A candidate is supposed to earn the votes the actual traditional way for good reason and if they can’t, the candidate should be changed – not the rule.
McConnell is desperate to hand Trump a win with Gorsuch, but he doesn’t have a leg to stand on given his own behavior last year. And so it’s nervous laughter topped off with some old, moldy sputtering lies for McConnell.
Image: Screen grab via NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd Mitch McConell
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.