FFRF: McConnell’s latest statement shows urgent need for court reform

Judicial Doomsday

The hypocritical recent comments of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about filling vacant Supreme Court seats prove the urgent need for court reform, says the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

McConnell’s statement highlights his repeated attempts to stack the U.S. Supreme Court with religious ideologues. On a talk radio show, McConnell signaled it would be “highly unlikely” if he becomes Senate majority leader after next year’s midterms that he would allow confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee in 2024 during “the middle of an election.”

McConnell must have a very short memory. Not too long ago (last October), McConnell as the majority leader did precisely that. After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, the Senate confirmed Barrett to a lifetime appointment a mere eight days before the 2020 presidential election day and in the midst of nationwide voting. The event marked the shortest period of time between the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice and a national election in U.S. history.

Doubling the injury, McConnell had previously deprived President Obama of the chance to have a confirmation hearing held for Merrick Garland, his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama nominated Garland on March 16, 2016, when the presidential election day, Nov. 8, was several months away.

McConnell declared that his refusal to provide the duly nominated Garland a hearing was designed to “give the American people a say in the court’s direction” so close to an election. McConnell also bragged that “one of [his] proudest moments was when [he] looked Barack Obama in the eye and said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’”

McConnell justifies his hypocrisy in fast-tracking Barrett’s confirmation by arguing that when the Senate and the president are from the same party, his “rule” about giving the people a voice in an election year doesn’t apply.

In order to restore balance and legitimacy to the court, reform is urgently needed. FFRF strongly supports the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would increase the number of justices to match the number of federal circuit courts, as was the practice in the early era of the court.

“In short, McConnell has effectively stolen two seats on the high court since 2016, and his latest announcement indicates that he is willing to try to steal another,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The end result is a court hostile to civil liberties that looks and sounds nothing like the makeup of the country as a whole.”

There are currently no vacancies on the Supreme Court, although there is speculation that Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, may retire before the end of this term.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation will continue to educate about the need to undo the damage inflicted on the federal judiciary, a third of whom were handpicked by Trump and the Federalist Society to Christian nationalist specifications.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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