By Newt Gingrich
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proven himself a master of both the United States Senate and the Judicial Branch.
McConnell was elected in 1984 and is today the longest serving Kentucky Senator in history. He was elected Republican Senate leader in November 2006 and is today the longest serving Republican Senate leader in history.
The story of his steady and relentless rise to power is best understood by reading his own memoir, The Long Game. He is candid and practical in exactly the down-home way he runs the Senate (and his campaigns).
It is this steady, tough-minded, relentless approach to identifying priorities and sticking to them that has made McConnell so extraordinary.
In fact, a large part of the success of the Trump presidency is bound up with his ability to work with McConnell to get big things done.
Under McConnell’s leadership the Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court Justices, 43 Circuit Court of Appeals judges, and 99 U.S. District Court judges. There are only 179 federal appeals court judges, so in less than three years the Trump-McConnell team has approved almost one quarter of them. Trump and McConnell have shepherded in one-seventh of the district court bench.
Capping off his impact on the Judicial Branch, McConnell insisted on blocking President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Scalia’s death. Symbolically, Scalia was the most conservative member of the court and replacing him with an Obama liberal would have significantly shifted the court. McConnell’s calm, steady refusal to act until after the election allowed President Trump to nominate now Justice Neil Gorsuch as a solid conservative.
Similarly, when the Left went all out to smear then-nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Leader McConnell calmly and patiently worked to hold the Republicans together and get a second conservative approved. His Supreme Court achievements alone are historic.
If President Trump is re-elected (and McConnell gets re-elected in Kentucky) at this pace by the end of the second term they will have appointed and confirmed over half of all our federal judges. When you think about the lifetime nature of these appointments, you can see why McConnell can legitimately be considered a master of the Judiciary as well as the Senate.
McConnell’s mastery of the Senate is even more remarkable for the narrow margins with which he has had to work. To some extent, he owes a debt of gratitude to former Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who set the precedent of limiting and weakening the filibuster and setting the stage for McConnell to use Reid’s rules to run over the Democrats day-after-day.
Mitch’s own innate conservatism is bolstered by his experience as a young man working in President Gerald Ford’s Justice Department, where he was a colleague of Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, and Laurence Silberman – three giants of the conservative legal resurgence.
McConnell has made all these accomplishments through an amazing amount of focused hard work. He never thought about running for president. He thought about how to lead his fellow senators. He has an endless capacity to listen to others. He also understands that accumulating resources and being able to help elect your colleagues is a key part of building and sustaining a majority.
He first chaired the Senatorial Committee helping elect the members whose votes he would need. Then, beginning in 2003, he was elected whip – the second highest post in the Senate GOP. When Bill Frist retired in 2006, McConnell became the minority leader. In the election of 2014 Republicans retook the majority in the Senate (in significant part because McConnell personally intervened to ensure candidates won), and he became the majority leader.
It took about a year for President Trump and Leader McConnell to learn to work together. Their experiences and styles are amazingly different. However, they have become more and more effective.
Another powerful breakthrough was Leader McConnell’s use of the Congressional Review Act early in the Trump Administration. The Congressional Review Act has been used 17 times to overturn rules and regulations. Sixteen of them were enacted during the 115th Congress to overturn Obama-era rules.
But these examples are only a small part of what McConnell has been able to do in the Senate. He has also been moving important legislation at a very quick pace – especially given the Senate’s political makeup.
McConnell successfully navigated and negotiated a bipartisan budget agreement which will keep government running for two years. It also prohibits so-called “poison pill” amendments that can often sink otherwise good bipartisan legislation.
Despite the high-tension politics over the border, McConnell was able to ferry through $4.6 billion in emergency appropriations to support federal agencies that are caring for the massive wave of migrants (particularly children) who are arriving at the US-Mexico border.
He has overseen the passage of $750 billion to rebuild our military and secure our national security against the likes of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
As Democrats have led a fruitless witch hunt against our President over non-existent collusion with Russia, McConnell has led the passage of bills to improve our election security by hardening our laws against hacking and election interference and bolstering our ability to counter and prevent cyber-attacks from foreign nations.
McConnell also helped pass the widely bipartisan effort to make permanent federal funds to aid first responders who were injured or have become ill from their service during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This will improve the health and security of these brave men and women and their families.
Finally, McConnell’s Senate has also passed a package of more than 100 bills to protect natural areas, wildlife, historic sites, and conservation efforts. He has led the largest reform of the Internal Revenue Service in two decades, and even laws to stop annoying robocalls.
When you look at the sheer productivity of the Senate in a time of enormous partisan bitterness and fighting, you can see why Leader McConnell has earned the right to be considered one of the historic Masters of the Senate in a way that has seldom happened in our history.