- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that his chief focus in the new Congress will be confirming President Trump’s nominees — and particularly his picks for the federal courts.

The Kentucky Republican, who will oversee an expanded majority in the Senate, said he expects there will be less need to spend time on legislation since his priorities will be so different from the House, soon to be under Democrats’ control.

“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding time to do nominations,” he told reporters.

He said high on his list will be remaking the federal judiciary, installing conservative judges.

“We intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can for as long as we are in a position to do that,” Mr. McConnell said. “It will still be my top priority in setting the agenda where in the Senate.”

The Senate has already set a record by clearing 29 circuit court judges in the first two years of the administration. Senators also approved 53 district court judges, along with two Supreme Court justices.

More than 40 judicial nominees are still awaiting confirmation votes, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley announced a hearing for next week to add even more to the list.

Maintaining control of the Senate was critical to the nominations process. Democrats have shown massive resistance to the president’s picks, forcing unprecedented delays — though with the lessened power of the filibuster, they are unable, on their own, to derail picks.

Mr. McConnell said he spoke with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who’s in line to become House speaker, and said they talked about some areas of common agreement such as working on an infrastructure bill.

But there were few other options listed.

He said repealing Obamacare is likely a dead issue, as is tackling entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicare. He said Democrats would resist any action there.

Mr. McConnell said immigration remains a perennial matter, but said there’s no sense the gridlock that’s snared Capitol Hill on the issue for more than a decade remains.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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