“This is the most successful Congress – right of center – in the 34 years I’ve been here.”

By on October 19, 2018 in Featured News, News

McConnell Reflects on Senate Accomplishments, Says Reshaping the Courts & Reviving the Economy Have Been Key

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks yesterday morning before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the 115th Congress was one of the most successful he has ever served in, and pointed to reshaping the courts and reviving the economy as top accomplishments of the past two years.

“The most important thing that the Majority Leader has to do to is set the agenda,” the veteran lawmaker stated in describing his job. “Once you set the agenda, you’re not sure sometimes how it’s going to come out. I think the single biggest decision I’ve made in my career is the decision not to do something — and that was to fill the Scalia vacancy in 2016 … If Schumer had my job, we wouldn’t be doing any of the things that we’re doing — wouldn’t be confirming any of these judges.

“I wanted to go to the judges first because I think it’s the single most important thing we’re doing. I love the tax bill. But I always like to remind everybody that the ’86 tax act lasted four years … The only way to get permanency in tax law is to keep winning elections, because every time the majority shifts, each side goes back at the tax code with their own particular set of priorities. So regardless of which part of the tax bill was permanent or not permanent, I think the key to its survivability is future elections. That cannot be said of lifetime appointments to the courts.”

McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1984. He has served as the leader of Senate Republicans since January 2007, when his colleagues elected him Minority Leader. He became Majority Leader after Republicans won back control of the chamber in 2014. In his remarks yesterday morning, he talked about the results of the last election in 2016, and a conversation he had at the time with now-recently-departed White House Counsel Don McGahn about the historic opportunity that Republicans had at hand.

“Don and I talked a week after the President was elected about how we might take advantage of a situation which only comes along occasionally,” the Leader recounted. “You can go back 100 years, and in only 20 of the last 100 years have Republicans had the Presidency, the House and the Senate at the same time. They’ve had enormous periods of dominance — the ‘30s, the ‘60s, the first years of Barack Obama. We haven’t had more than 55 Republican senators in 100 years. Let me say that again — we’ve haven’t had more than 55 Republican senators in 100 years.

“So when I woke up the day after the election, I said, ‘My goodness, the stars are aligned. Let’s don’t waste this opportunity.’ The next thought was, ‘What’s the single most long lasting thing we could do for the country to make it as right of center as possible?’ And obviously, that’s a judicial appointment. So Don and I talked a week after the election. I gave him some advice based on my experience that frequently the pre-nomination process was too convoluted. You’d have the White House Counsel, you’d have the Justice Department, and they’d have a hard time ever deciding who to send up in the first place.”

“Another problem that George Bush 43 dispensed with was — believe it or not — Republican and Democratic Presidents, except for Bush 43, gave the American Bar Association a pre-nomination blackball. Let me say that again — gave the ABA, for God’s sake, a pre-nomination blackball. So if you couldn’t clear the ABA, you couldn’t even get nominated. Bush 43 said you’re just another interest group. If you have an opinion, give it to the Judiciary Committee.

“So I said, ‘Don, don’t waste any time with the ABA. My advice to you is keep this within the White House Counsel’s office because if you and the Justice Department are constantly going back and forth, it will slow the process and just take too much time.”

According to McConnell, the President and McGahn deserve credit for nominating qualified candidates for the circuit court. He noted that many of these candidates are not only young, but are strict constructionists – meaning they will be serving on the bench without legislating from the bench for a long time.

“We’ve done 29 so far this Congress,” McConnell said of the judicial nominees. “That’s a record for any administration in the first two years. We’ve done 84 judges overall. We’re going to do more of them before the end of the year. And I’m amazed that they get so freaked out over having these kinds of people in the court. What is a strict constructionist? Justice Scalia, who had many memorable things to say, said you’re not a very good judge if you’re not occasionally uncomfortable with the result you reach, because it’s not your personal opinion. You’re supposed to apply the law or the Constitution and not just make it up on the fly. He would also go on to say, ‘If you want to make policy, why don’t you run for office? That’s not our job.’ I had Justice Gorsuch down to Kentucky last year after his confirmation. This was the way he put it — he said, ‘We don’t wear red robes or blue robes. We wear black robes.’

“So I don’t know why people are frightened about these kinds of judges. Put yourself in the place of a litigant. President Obama wanted to put people on the bench who had ‘empathy.’ Now think about that a minute. What if you’re the litigant for whom the judge does not have empathy? You’re not in such good shape. I’d like to think if I’m a litigant that I got a fair shot of being before somebody who’s going to apply the laws as written rather than not. Because I may not be the one for whom the judge has empathy. But they find this very frightening, and I think the reason they do is when you look at the kind of people that President Obama and President Clinton tended to appoint, they were people who were like super legislators. And every opportunity they had to get an outcome they wanted, they did. This is the great divide between the two parties — over what these lifetime appointments ought to be like. And I found it comforting and rewarding that we can use these four years, if we hold the Senate, to put these kinds of men and women on the courts.”

McConnell then turned his attention to some of the other accomplishments by Congress over the past two years, and why he believes the 115th Congress is one of the “most successful” he has ever seen.

“This is the most successful Congress — right of center — in the 34 years I’ve been here,” the Kentucky Republican declared. “Everything from taxes to regulations to the rollback of Dodd-Frank and on and on and on. The Senate is not broken. In the same week we were slugging it out over Justice Kavanaugh, we did an opioid bill — overwhelmingly bipartisan. We did a five-year extension of the FAA that hadn’t been done in 20 years. And a couple of weeks before that we funded 75 percent of the government before the end of the fiscal year, which hadn’t been done since ‘97. There’s nothing broken about the Senate. But we have had some big arguments over big things that we disagree on — taxes, judges. This is America, for goodness sake — that’s what we do.”

Making reference to the Kavanaugh fight, the Majority Leader also paid tribute to his colleagues for not only standing up to a literal mob, but for standing up for a principle that is too often forgotten in American life – the presumption of innocence.

“Is the presumption of innocence still valid in America?” McConnell asked. “I thought the tactics of the mob that descended on the Capitol were demonstrably different from the demonstrations that are going on here all the time. We’re used to demonstration. Everybody demonstrates in America for whatever they want to. They were running us out of restaurants, meeting us at our homes, getting in our faces right in the Capitol building. They were trying to intimidate us — to scare us into voting against this good man.

“At the end of that week delay, there was no corroborating evidence, so you were going to operate on the presumption of innocence or not in the end. You had to have some corroborating evidence, and there was none. So the presumption of innocence was going to apply or it wasn’t. And I’m really proud of my members. They stood up to the mob and they stood up for the presumption of innocence and we succeeded. But it was one hell of a fight.”

Following his remarks, McConnell took a number of questions, including one about comments he was reported to have made about the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the national debt and that Republicans were going to have to cut entitlement spending to bring down the debt as a result.

“That’s not what I said,” he stated bluntly. “The drivers of the debt are popular entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. What I said was the only way that can that ever be addressed is on a bipartisan basis. The deficit — the annual deficit — is up principally because we had to expand defense spending. But the revenues are also up, so the tax cut didn’t produce less revenue. So far, it’s produced more revenue, but the deal that we cut with the Democrats in order to get $700 billion and then the $716 billion on defense required that we give them more than we wanted to do on the domestic side.

“So we spent more, but we thought the needs of defense and foreign policy — we’ve got two big state rivals in Russia and China, two rogue rivals in North Korea and Iran, and terrorism — warranted a defense buildup. So that’s where we are at the moment. Now, if you look at it over the life of the deal that we made, I think it will not end up increasing the deficit because of the tax cut. I mean, this is a robust economy. More people are working. Unemployment is at a 50 year low. We’re proud of that. And I wouldn’t undo it for a minute.”

To view the Majority Leader’s remarks before The Ripon Society breakfast discussion yesterday morning, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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