Opinion: With Justice Ginsburg’s death, Mitch McConnell’s nauseating hypocrisy comes into full focus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands in front of a microphone
What a surprise! Mitch McConnell flip-flopped.
(Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

We saw this coming.

Not just that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might die before the election. But that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most shameless man in Washington, would respond with one of the most nauseating acts of political hypocrisy in decades — vowing to rush a new Trump appointee onto the court in the two short months before the election.

That may not seem so nauseating and hypocritical on the face of it. After all, Donald Trump is the sitting president and Ginsburg died on his watch, so by law, Trump is entitled to nominate a successor and McConnell, in the ordinary course of events, would schedule confirmation hearings.

But McConnell doesn’t believe that! He argued just the opposite four years ago when Justice Antonin Scalia died and it was President Obama’s constitutional duty to fill the seat during his last year in office. Remember what McConnell did? He simply refused to hold confirmation hearings for Obama’s nominee in the Senate and ran out the clock until the following January. He argued — utterly unpersuasively — that a president in the final year of his term shouldn’t be appointing new justices.


Now, however, when it’s a Republican who wants to appoint a justice — surprise! — McConnell feels differently. He said in a statement Friday evening that a Trump appointee will get a Senate floor vote. In other words, he has no intention of sticking to his supposed principles. Instead, he’s got some complicated rationale that purportedly explains why this situation is different.

But let’s face reality: This is a cynical, partisan reversal.

Here’s the column I wrote on the subject back in July when Ginsburg fell ill. I argued that if she died, McConnell should do the consistent and honorable thing — and refuse to act on Trump’s nominee as a way to right the grievous wrong he did in 2016.

After what he did to Merrick Garland, Mitch McConnell should refuse to hold hearings if there’s a vacant Supreme Court seat between now and the election.

July 18, 2020