Mitch McConnell had the advantage in advancing Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, but can he marshal his forces?

Ryan Grim
October 6 2020, 7:23 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

THE SENATE went into recess Monday afternoon following the news that at least three Republican senators were waylaid with Covid-19. It was the latest in an ongoing parliamentary battle whose outcome could shape both the judiciary and the Senate for years to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a near-invincible upper hand in the fight, but now his control is far from certain amid the virus outbreak, which seems to have been spread rapidly by the very ceremony that kicked off the confrontation: a reckless White House party to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

McConnell, who has not said whether he’s taken a Covid-19 test, has made clear his unyielding determination to brush aside any norm or obstacle to implant Barrett into the Supreme Court. To make that happen before the election — or, in the event of a loss by Donald Trump, before the president leaves office — McConnell has two major hurdles to clear. The first is a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican facing a surprisingly close race for reelection. On Monday, McConnell said a Judiciary vote would likely happen by October 16. The second is a floor vote, which McConnell has pledged to hold as quickly as possible after the nomination clears the committee. A floor vote is eyed for sometime around October 26.

Within moments of the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, progressives both in and out of Congress began pushing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to be as aggressive as possible in blocking Barrett. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed with Schumer for a press conference outside the Brooklyn high school where both he and Ginsburg graduated. Ocasio-Cortez pressed the point, urging Schumer to use “every tool” at his disposal.

The pressure has continued. On Monday, a coalition of mostly New York-based progressive groups launched a video pushing Schumer to give everything he has to the fight against Barrett, narrated largely by constitutional law professor Zephyr Teachout.

THE VIDEO followed a long weekend of wall-to-wall calls and video meetings between Schumer, his senior staff, and the various outside progressive groups engaged in the confirmation battle. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cultivated strong relationships with the party’s outside progressive organizations and its grassroots activists, and even as they didn’t always agree on strategy or tactics, there was a sense that both camps were part of the same effort. Schumer has always had a more arms-length relationship with those same outside forces but now is making an effort to close that gap.  more

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