I suspect most of you have heard of chutzpah, a Yiddish word for a certain kind of unmitigated gall that, according to an old joke, is personified by the man, facing sentencing for having killed both his parents, who asks for mercy from the judge on account being an orphan.
Enter Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who yesterday sent in an op-ed to the Washington Post expressing his faux outrage that some Democrats are talking about increasing the size of the Supreme Court (sometimes referred to as “court-packing”) or establishing term limits on Supreme Court justices.
If the Democrats do either of those things it will be to undo the undue advantages that McConnell engineered to already pack the court with Republican appointees.
As you will recall, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016 created a vacancy to which then-President Barack Obama nominated the highly qualified (then-Judge, now Attorney General) Merrick Garland.
But, thanks to the chutzpah of McConnell, although it was 11 months before the end of Obama’s term, the confirmation process was never started because McConnell claimed a bogus “rule” that it was too close to the election of a new president to allow the outgoing president to make a nomination. (I’ll let someone who denies this was bogus to make the argument that this was not.)
Everyone with a brain could see that McConnell had no interest in any such “rule.” Anyway, McConnell got away with it, the seat was left vacant, and after former President Donald Trump was inaugurated he filled the seat with the first of three justices he was able to appoint during his single four-year term.
The court is now packed with young conservatives. It is composed of six conservative Republicans and three liberal Democrats.
This stealth court-packing may have been McConnell’s greatest gift to the Right. And it’s fairly obvious that this backdrop has led some Democrats/liberals to whisper about adding some new seats.
“Court-packing,” as this is sometimes called, had a bad reputation and is viewed by many as a kind of cheating, although the size of the Supreme Court has varied over time and is not specified in the Constitution.
If someone other than McConnell, and without McConnell’s record as a court packer himself, were to make the argument against adding justices, I would try to listen respectfully. But, coming from McConnell, it is a garbage argument — pure chutzpah, which is a Yiddish word for gall.
I don’t know for sure how I feel about increasing the size of the court. I’m open to more discussion. But none of it from Mitch McConnell, king of chutzpah.