In a press conference today, the Senate majority leader got a tough question. “This could be seven months essentially wasted with no accomplishment,” CNN’s Manu Raju asked. “How are you going to explain this to voters next year if you don’t do what you campaigned on?” McConnell’s response: “Well, we have a new Supreme Court justice.” McConnell went on to say that the GOP will use the time until next year’s midterm elections to work on tax cuts and an infrastructure bill. But these are not likely to be any easier than repealing Obamacare, indeed are likely to be harder since there will be less revenue available for tax cuts if Obamacare stays in place.
For McConnell, the confirmation of Gorsuch is the ultimate consolation after a political season in which Republicans largely failed to enact their agenda despite having full control of government. Nor is McConnell wrong about this. It could be that repealing and replacing Obamacare was a low priority for most Trump voters, who will be satisfied that the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was filled by perhaps an even more conservative justice and that Trump has taken decisive—some would say unconstitutional—steps to restrict immigration. McConnell’s legislative ambitions might be narrowly focused, but keeping the courts conservative is a real victory.