Behind the showdown on Mount Gorsuch

Writing slightly in advance of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court this past Friday, I referred to the weak sisters among the GOP Senators who came through in the event. I also paid tribute to Senator McConnell’s “long game” in keeping Justice Scalia’s seat open and in overcoming the Democratic filibuster. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes now gives us an early look behind the showdown in “How Mitch McConnell won the battle to confirm Judge Gorsuch.”

Barnes’s reporing suggests that failure was an option. Barnes identifies three weak sisters (including Senator Corker) among the GOP Senators. Senator Schumer played a weak hand, but he tried to make a “real cool hand” out of nothing. According to Barnes, he didn’t lose for lack of trying.

Here Senator McConnell speaks:

When I interviewed McConnell shortly after Gorsuch was confirmed, he wanted to talk before I asked a question. He had plenty to say. It’s rare there are things “you can say you did on your own.” One was his snap decision to bar the Senate from taking up a Supreme Court nomination until a new president took office. Only the majority leader could do this. “It is the most consequential decision I ever made,” McConnell said.

And it turned out the open seat was an “electoral asset” for Trump. Voters didn’t like him or Hillary Clinton. But once filling the seat became the “principal issue,” Trump had the advantage. Everyone knew she would dump Garland, a moderate, for someone further to the left.

“We didn’t know if the president would be a conservative or not,” McConnell said. However, he had promised to pick a nominee from a list of 20 conservative jurists. (McConnell had advocated such a list.) “This reassured conservatives.” The result: he got 90 percent of the Republican vote and won.

McConnell gave Trump credit for nominating “the single best circuit court judge in the country. It made my job easier.” He described the job as “getting all my frogs in the wheelbarrow.” On cloture, the nuclear option, and confirmation, he got all 52 frogs.

Whole thing here and more of note in the related Politico article “Inside the failed secret mission to save the filibuster.”