A major theme at this year’s Road to Majority conference was the Right’s aggressive takeover of the court system in the United States, which was a frequent topic of celebration among the pundits and politicians who spoke at the gathering last week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was perhaps the most enthusiastic, and certainly the most self-satisfied, about the Trump-appointed judges being rapidly confirmed. He told conference attendees that that “single most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire political career was to not let Barrack Obama fill that [Antonin] Scalia vacancy on the way out the door,” for which he received a thunderous ovation from the audience.
McConnell celebrated the fact that Republicans were able to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the court and said he’s seen that same wins reflected in the lower courts, gloating that Republicans have confirmed “one-eighth of the circuit court judges in America” in the last year and a half, thanks to Trump.
“Admirers of Justice Scalia are all over the country now and we’ve been seeing them as the president sends up circuit judges, sends up circuit judges we’ve been confirming in record numbers,” McConnell said, grinning. He added, “We are transforming the court system of this country.”
“Of all the things we’re doing, the things that will have the longest impact on the country are the court systems and these men and women the president has been sending up and we’ve been confirming are not very old, either,” McConnell said, smirking. “Late 40s, early 50s, chances are they will be on there for a very long time. Most cases don’t reach the Supreme Court, so the circuit courts are really where most complex cases end.”
Talk about judges wasn’t limited to McConnell. Rather, it was a prevalent talking point among the activists and politicians who assembled at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence told attendees that Trump had appointed “strong conservatives to our federal courts at every level.” Said Pence, “In fact, last year, this president and our administration, with the strong support Republican majority in the United States Senate, set a record for the most court of appeals judges confirmed to our federal courts in a single year in American history—and that doesn’t even count Justice Neil Gorsuch.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn bragged, “We have a Supreme Court justice. We have over 40 federal judges that have been appointed to the district, the circuit, the appeals courts.”
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway also bragged about the sheer volume of Trump-appointed judges being confirmed into the judiciary: “One-eighth of the US Circuit Court judiciary right now is a Donald Trump appointee nominee and we’ve only been here for 16 months. That’s an incredible thing and that’s the way you see a lasting legacy, that’s the way you see a legacy long after he leaves the presidency six-and-a-half years from now.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy told Road to Majority, “I was sad when I saw Scalia pass away, but what about Gorsuch, right? If you wonder if it’s made it different, why don’t you ask Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who was just vindicated by the Supreme Court earlier this week? I thought the Supreme Court spoke loud and clear.”
“But you know what?” McCarthy added, “We’ve appointed more judges and we need more that believe in the Constitution, not one—somebody who’s going to reinterpret the Constitution.”
At a meeting on Capitol Hill, Sen. Chuck Grassley told Road to Majority attendees that the Senate was confirming Trump’s judges like “a sub-machine gun—it’s because previous presidents didn’t work as hard as this president’s staff to get them reviewed and get them out.”
Malina Simard-Halm contributed research to this post.