Mitch McConnell is perhaps the single most consequential politician to play the complex levers of power in the United States Senate since Lyndon Johnson created the majority leader position as we know it today. Whether or not the Republicans are in the majority or the slimmest of minorities, McConnell has managed to either actively set the legislative agenda himself, or become so much of an impediment to Democrats that he might as well still be running the show.
As a sign of just how much McConnell has become a singular loci of power in the Senate, consider the fact that he is so comfortable in his position, he feels no need to do the one thing politicians are most known for doing: lie.
Speaking with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, McConnell acknowledged that should he return as Senate Majority Leader after the 2022 midterms, he would continue his longstanding streak of rejecting any Supreme Court nomination from a Democratic president. He explained: "I don’t think either party, if it controlled [the Senate], if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election."
"What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president," he added, in reference to the grotesquely fast push to install conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the bench. Ginsburg died just 46 days before the 2020 election.
Pressed on whether a Senate Majority Leader McConnell would block a Biden nominee 18 months ahead of the 2024 presidential election, similar to what McConnell did with now-Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2016, McConnell answered simply, "We’d have to wait and see what happens" — which is the sort of answer a parent gives a child when they don't want to invite a tantrum with an immediate "no."
Taken in aggregate, McConnell's comments are something of a blunt, unapologetic challenge to Democrats — one which, simply by putting it forward, he is clearly confident he will win. "I am going to do everything I can to screw you, and you are just not going to do anything about it," is essentially McConnell's message. He's betting that Democrats can't (or won't) make any of the structural changes that might curb his ability to tank their agenda (packing the Supreme Court, abolishing the filibuster, etc.), and therefore that they'll have no real capacity to respond when he tells them exactly how he plans to screw them over.
Even if, by some fluke-upon-fluke of circumstance, the Democrats do actually move forward with packing the court or abolishing the filibuster (which, thanks to McConnell's own machinations, wouldn't actually affect debate on a Supreme Court nomination), McConnell certainly will use those changes as a cudgel to hammer Democrats in the next election. And if he wins that round, he'll use the same alterations to further cement permanent GOP control, without taking any of the blame for making the changes in the first place.
For McConnell, this is a win-win situation, where one of the wins is only slightly less exciting than the other. Either way, it's easy to see why he's is being so up front here. There's no real downside for him.
Ultimately McConnell's honesty is refreshing, in the appalling way announcing you're going to hit someone seconds before you throw the punch might be. Sure you're still getting a fist in your face, but you can't say you didn't know it was coming.