After spending hundreds of days blocking President Barack Obama's 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then went "nuclear" to get Trump's first supreme court pick, Neil Gorsuch, approved.
In 2017, McConnell changed Senate rules so that instead of needing 60 votes to seat a Supreme Court justice, Republicans only needed 51. That's how the high court got Gorsuch and, after him, Brett Kavanaugh. Neither of those Trump nominees would have been confirmed if 60 votes had been needed.
Now McConnell says he's going nuclear again to speed up the Republicans' efforts to pack lower federal courts with Trump appointees.
To get the speed-up he wants, McConnell is going to preside over a drastic cut in the time the Senate spends debating lower court nominees. Currently, such debates are capped at 30 hours. If McConnell goes nuclear (again), the amount of time allotted for debates on lower court nominees will be a maximum of two hours, just one-fifteenth of what it's traditionally been.
Republicans who obstructed Garland's nomination are now claiming this new change is necessary because of "historic obstruction" by Democrats against Trump's judicial nominees.
But Trump has put two new judges on the US Supreme Court and when it comes to lower courts, as HuffPo has pointed out, "Republicans have already confirmed 37 circuit judges during the Trump presidency, more than any president has gotten through by this point in his first term. That’s so many circuit judges that 1 in 5 seats on circuit courts are now filled by a judge nominated by Trump."
At present, there are more than 100 empty federal district court—too many for Trump to fill if the 30 hours of debate rule is maintained. But if it's cut down to two hours, Trump could get a lot more of those 100 empty seats filled.
Which is why McConnell is about to go nuclear. Again.
If he does, expect more Democrats to pick up the cry for going ahead with the biggest nuclear option of all: removing the Senate filibuster altogether, so that pretty much every Senate measure can pass with a simple majority (rather than needing 60 votes).
This will essentially turn the Senate into the House, but it will also make it much easier for Democrats to pass legislation if they regain control of the Senate in 2020.