Mitch McConnell is longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history, a witness to MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and a guy who always looks like he has a secret, and that secret is that he doesn’t care.
Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. was born in 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama. At two years old, McConnell was struck with polio. His mother drove him to a treatment facility opened under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he was nursed back to health.
In 1956, McConnell’s family moved to Louisville where he began his political career as his high school’s student council president. Later, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences, where he graduated with honors in 1964. At 22 years old, McConnell interned for Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, which solidified his Senate aspirations. “After interning here, I thought I ought to at least give it a shot if I ever had a chance,” McConnell said.
In 1967, in the midst of the Vietnam War, McConnell graduated from the University of Kentucky’s law school. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve. But McConnell avoided combat and his discharge has been the subject of controversy. He claims he was discharged for an eye problem. Though it seems like the real eye problem was seeing himself go to Vietnam. In reality, McConnell was discharged five days after Senator John Sherman Cooper, his old boss, pulled a few strings for his former star intern.
Soon, McConnell began to rise through the ranks of Republican politics. He was elected Judge Executive of Jefferson County- before running for the Senate in 1984. McConnell narrowly won election against Democratic opponent, Dee Huddleston.
McConnell started out as a centrist Republican. He reportedly supported abortion rights, employee unions, and he even backed Gerald R. Ford over Reagan before he came to the Senate. In 2006, long after he shed his centrist past, McConnell was elected Minority Leader in a Democratic-controlled Senate. He became Majority Leader in 2015 after Republicans took control of the Senate.
Perhaps McConnell’s biggest legacy will be in shifting the direction of the Supreme Court and the federal courts to the right. When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in 2016, Obama — with ten full months left in his term — nominated Merrick Garland, a moderate who had been previously praised by many Republicans, to the Supreme Court. But just hours after Scalia’s death was announced, and before Obama even named a replacement, McConnell stepped up and declared that any appointment by the sitting president should be blocked until a new president was sworn into office.
There was no confirmation hearing or floor vote on Merrick Garland. McConnell ignored the vacancy and held on long enough for a Republican to take office. His gamble will pay off for decades- after Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to fill the seat held open for him. McConnell is not shy about this powergrab, he said: "One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'”
When another seat on the Supreme Court opened up, and Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, faced credible allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, McConnell was furious...at Democrats. After preventing a hearing on President Obama’s nominee, and holding a Supreme Court seat open for 310 days, McConnell decided there could be no delay in confirming Kavanaugh, no matter what.
Thanks in part to McConnell’s tactics, President Trump has made two lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. An impact that will last long after McConnell throws in the towel, which possibly dons the confederate flag.