VIDEO | Sen. McConnell talks Supreme Court, protesters in presser
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised President Donald Trump's nominee to fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy at a news conference in Louisville on Friday morning.
Calling Brett Kavanaugh "an absolute all-star" with "impeccable credentials" and "a perfect temperament," McConnell said he's convinced the Senate could confirm the nominee by Oct. 1.
“I think we will succeed, yes," McConnell said.
He said many of the senators on both sides have already made their minds up.
“I think most members who are in this undecided column will wait until the hearing ... until they feel like they’ve got all the information," he said. "But my suspicion that a very small number of people that are genuinely undecided.”
He blasted some Democratic outrage over Kavanaugh's nomination as "laughable."
At stake, some fear, is the fate of Roe v. Wade, the landmark SCOTUS decision legalizing abortion. Two Republican senators indicate they won't back Kavanaugh if he'd overturn it. They're considered crucial votes with the GOP-led Senate split 51 to 49, and Democrats are expected to vote on party lines.
“The playbook has been the same," he said. "Any nominee for the Supreme Court put forward by any Republican president over the last 40 years has been demonized as completely unacceptable on a whole range of issues, almost none of which ever comes to fruition. So it just has to make you smile.”
At one point, McConnell was confronted about his previous decision to delay the vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee until after Trump's election. McConnell was then asked if, based on his own logic, he should delay the vote on Kavanaugh until after the mid-term elections in November, given that 35 seats are in play.
“That was a presidential election," McConnell said of his original decision. "There is no presidential election this year. In fact, there are three members of the Supreme Court right now who were confirmed in off-year election years. Three of them. Sitting right now. Let me refresh everybody’s memory on the facts. You’d have to go back to 1888 to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year was confirmed by a Senate of a different party from the president.
"In 1992, at a time when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats, and there was a Republican in the White House, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, said if a vacancy occurred, they would not fill it.
"During the last 18 months of the eight years of Bush 43, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader and the current Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said if a vacancy occurred ... they would not fill it. So look, all of this outrage is laughable. Because we all know, if this had been a Republican president sending a nominee up to a Democratic Senate in the middle of a presidential election year, they would not fill it.”
McConnell also addressed the incident in which he was heckled as he left local restaurants.
"With regard to the protesters, I’m not sure what about my career has led them to believe that I am easily intimidated," he said. "My office walls are decorated with cartoons skewering me. This is all about intimidation. Not about persuasion but about intimidation. And I assure you I will not be intimidated by this group of socialists who apparently prefer open borders.
"Let’s understand what they are suggesting here: Getting rid of ICE – the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement – and having no one at all patrol the borders. What I worry about is that that point of view seems to be moving into the United States Senate.”
McConnell signed onto the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act introduced last month in the U.S. Senate. If passed, it would keep immigrant children with their parents at the border.
The act does not go far enough for some of the Occupy ICE crowds gathered feet from McConnell's Louisville office. The demonstration is entering its second week ,complete with canopies, signs of protests and necessities like food and water near Broadway and Seventh Street.
"We're out here for all the black and brown children being torn away form their families," Chanelle Helm said.
Helm, a Black Lives Matter organizer, was part of the group of protesters who approached McConnell outside Sarino, an Italian restaurant in Louisville last weekend. Video of the incident made national headlines and went viral online.
"It's not about persuasion," McConnell said. "It's about intimidation, and I will not be intimidated by these people. Honestly, I enjoyed my lunch. And I’m just sorry that other people at the restaurant seemed to be inconvenienced by all of this.”
Helm contends the Occupy ICE movement is not an inconvenience rather a commitment to publicly oppose the organization until it no longer exists.
"We're not worried about (McConnell's) lunch," she said. "We're not worried about how intimidated he must feel, but what we are more concerned about is how silent he is about the separating of those families and how we're using a law enforcement agency to do that."
McConnell also expressed his desire that the "Papa John's" name be removed from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. His opinions came just a couple of hours before a Friday afternoon noon news conference in which U of L President Neeli Bendapudi announced her decision to do exactly that.
To watch the news conference in its entirety, click on video player above.
Copyright 2018 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.