“The damage to American confidence in these institutions could be permanent,” he said. “Before we go any further, we should turn off the cameras, close the Senate and talk face to face about what this could mean for the country.”
The Republicans didn’t want such a discussion. They voted within minutes to reopen the case and consider Judge Barrett.
“It’s just harassment,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas. “It’s not about substance.”
But it was left to Mr. McConnell, the architect of the Republican takeover of federal courts, to provide a broader answer. Turning away from the cameras to speak directly to Republican members at their desks, he offered a selectively curated story of the changing Senate nomination process that followed the Democrats’ rejection of Conservative candidate Robert Bork in the year Declined in 1987.
Mr McConnell argued that the decision to block Judge Garland was consistent with history, as was the decision to confirm Judge Barrett, since now, unlike then, the same party controls the White House and Senate. Democrats view the Garland blockade as a serious escalation from which the chamber has not recovered.
“It’s not a spin. That’s a fact, ”said McConnell. Regarding Democrats, he added, “Every new escalation, every new step, every new precedent, every one of them has been initiated there. No exceptions.”
As a sign of how toxic the relationship between the two leaders had become four years after Mr. Schumer took over his leadership role, Mr. McConnell suggested that he should only reap what he had sown.
“I hope our colleague from New York is happy with what he’s built,” said McConnell. “I hope he’s happy with where his ingenuity got the Senate from.”