Past Mitch McConnell and present Mitch McConnell don’t agree on Supreme Court appointments

Senate majority waffler.
Senate majority waffler.
Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
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Following the Feb. 13 announcement that conservative US Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia had died, Senate Republicans wasted little time in assuring the American people they would block any attempt by president Obama to appoint a replacement. (Presidential appointments to the Supreme Court must be confirmed by the Senate.)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is leading the obstructionist charge. But his opposition to late-term judicial appointments appears to be a recent development. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman dug up a paper written by McConnell when he was law student at the University of Kentucky in 1970. “At the outset, the Senate should discount the philosophy of the nominee,” he wrote. “The president is presumably elected by the people to carry out a program and altering the ideological directions of the Supreme Court would seem to be a perfectly legitimate part of a presidential platform.”

The senator also voted to confirm justice Anthony Kennedy in Feb. 1988, the final year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And in 2005, in response to Democratic opposition to a number of George W. Bush’s appointments to federal appellate courts, he pined to The Los Angeles Times for Senate traditions of old: “up-or-down votes on the president’s nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who’s in control of the Senate.”