McConnell pushes through two more judges while ignoring protests and pandemic

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Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up legislation dealing with police reform or the coronavirus pandemic in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has focused the Senate almost exclusively on confirming Donald Trump's far-right judicial nominees even as the death toll from the coronavirus soars past 100,000 and violence explodes across the country during protests against the killing by police of black people.

On Monday, the Senate voted on the nomination of John Badalamenti to be a U.S. district judge in Florida. Badalamenti, like many of Trump's judicial nominees, is a member of the far-right Federalist Society.

By a 55-22 vote, Badalamenti became the 197th Trump judicial nominee confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal court, according to Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

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"Senators are not responding to COVID-19 or passing critically needed police reform," Gupta tweeted on Monday, adding that confirming judges is still McConnell's priority.

McConnell and staunch Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham have gone so far as to encourage older conservative judges to retire so that Trump can name their replacements, as a safeguard against the possibility of Republicans losing the Senate or the White House, or both, in the 2020 general election.

"So if you're a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status, now would be a good time to do that, if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center," Graham said last week.

Meanwhile, not long after McConnell continued to focus on confirming judges, military police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse peaceful protesters near the White House to open a path for Donald Trump to walk to a nearby church for a photo-op.

The protesters were part of a global movement opposing racist police violence following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd's neck.

Another issue taking a back seat to McConnell's work to pack the courts with Trump nominees, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic still gripping the country.

More than 100,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus, and the number of cases of infection is approaching 2 million.

In early May, McConnell said he felt no "urgency" to act on additional pandemic relief legislation, even as the number of unemployment claims was dramatically increasing. More than 40 million Americans have filed jobless claims, and unemployment has reached levels the country has not seen since the Great Depression.

On May 15, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that provides additional financial support to Americans, as well as support for local and state governments. In the weeks since then, McConnell has refused to hold a vote on the bill.

Since the protests against racist police violence began, Democrats have proposed legislation to address the issue.

In the Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii announced he would propose an amendment to the annual defense policy bill to end the program that provides military-grade equipment to local police forces.

On Monday, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced police reform proposals to "ensure greater accountability and transparency."

Meanwhile, McConnell put the wheels in motion to hold a Senate vote in the coming days on Trump's nomination of Drew Tipton to serve on a federal court in Texas. Tipton has no judicial experience and was the former president of the Republican National Lawyers Association.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.