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McConnell says Biden White House aims to weaken Supreme Court independence

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Biden administration of undermining the independence of the U.S. judiciary as a presidential commission explores ways to revamp the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

In remarks honoring the tenure of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, McConnell referenced a recent speech by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ecuador about the threats to democracy there. Blinken, McConnell said, should take a look at Democrats’ actions here.

“Tony Blinken flies to Latin America to finger-wag other nations about pressuring judges while his own boss tries the same trick right here at home. It’d be perfect satire if it wasn’t so crazy, or scary,” McConnell said at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday evening.

A Biden-stamped presidential commission convened last week to deliver mixed opinions about whether to expand the U.S. Supreme Court beyond its current nine judges. The commission’s draft report gave a more favorable view to imposing term limits on justices, an idea Biden himself said he opposes.

Still, McConnell attempted to link broader elements of the Democratic Party’s efforts to change the U.S. Supreme Court to Biden himself, even as his commission has yet to reach final conclusions. It is tasked with supplying a full report of its findings to Biden on Nov. 14.

“Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon,” McConnell said. “The very concept of an independent and insulated judiciary is actually at stake.”

McConnell pointed to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s comments in March 2020, when he invoked the names of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as he spoke to supporters of abortion rights in front of the Supreme Court building.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said at the time, drawing a rare public rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, who denounced the language as “threatening.”

 

Afterward, Schumer said he should not have used those words.

McConnell also referenced a letter to the Supreme Court by a group of Democratic senators stating, “the court is not well, and perhaps the court can heal itself before the public demands it be restructured.”

Taken together, McConnell said this is all evidence that Democrats and their liberal allies have given up trying to win the contest of ideas and are instead attempting to change the institutions that oversee them.

McConnell obviously favors the current make-up of the court and heaped praise on Justice Thomas for holding “the clearest, bravest, most straightforwardly colorblind view of our Constitution” since John Marshall Harlan, the sole dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark case that upheld racial segregation.

The Kentuckian also poked fun in sharing some personality traits with Thomas, who is marking his 30th year of service on the Supreme Court.

“What could I, Mitch McConnell, possibly know about a notable leader who is parsimonious with his public statements, who shuns the performative aspect of public life and who is viewed as a bogeyman by the radical left? What would I know about that?” he said to laughter.

©2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.