The History That Shaped Mitch McConnell's Views On Supreme Court Nominations : Embedded Mitch McConnell has consistently rejected the rules and norms that once guided Supreme Court nominations. He says he's taken his cue from the Democrats. This week, we dig into the history that shaped Mitch McConnell's views on judicial nominations.
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Essential Mitch: The Judges

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Essential Mitch: The Judges

Essential Mitch: The Judges

Essential Mitch: The Judges

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/949283556/949421047" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks at a news conference on Miguel A. Estrada's withdrawal of his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That day, Republicans castigated Democrats for "obstructing" the nominations of Estrada and other judicial candidates. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks at a news conference on Miguel A. Estrada's withdrawal of his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That day, Republicans castigated Democrats for "obstructing" the nominations of Estrada and other judicial candidates.

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. That choice, and the controversy that followed, put an end to norms and traditions that had guided judicial appointments for 150 years.

Bork was a conservative judge who had worked in the Nixon administration. NPR's Nina Totenberg says the nomination was controversial from the start, in part because Bork had spoken out, "publicly and in legal opinions about his view that there is no constitutional right to privacy — the right of privacy being the legal underpinning of the Supreme Court's abortion ruling."

With Bork, it wasn't that the Democrats opposed a conservative nominee and then found other things in the record like ethics violations to disqualify him. This time, they opposed the nominee strictly for what he believed in. They thought he was too extreme a conservative.

When the Bork nomination came up for a full vote in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the senator from Kentucky, issued a warning. If the Bork nomination was rejected, he said, there would be a price to pay. This week on Embedded, in the last episode of our "Essential Mitch" series, we explore just what the price has turned out to be. We look not just at the Bork nomination, but also at lesser-known nominations that shaped McConnell's thinking about judicial appointments. Those moments mark the beginning of the erosion of the traditions intended to promote bipartisanship and consensus.


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