GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell said he would hold open a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if he were the Senate majority leader.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday said that if a Supreme Court seat became vacant in the last year of President Joe Biden's first term, he would block Biden from filling it if he could.
McConnell made the comment in an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, who praised McConnell for stealing the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 by refusing to even hold a hearing for then-President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, who is now serving as Biden's attorney general.
McConnell's argument at the time was that a Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled in an election year, and because he was the Senate majority leader, he had the power to block a vote on any of Obama's nominees.
McConnell, however, did not hold that same standard in 2020, when liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died less than two months from the general election. In fact, McConnell helped get Donald Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett confirmed on Oct. 26, 2020 — one week before Election Day.
Hewitt asked McConnell about what he would do if a vacancy on the court came up in 2024.
"If you regain the majority in 2022 for the Republicans ... would the rule that you applied in 2016 to the Scalia vacancy apply in 2024 to any vacancy that occurred then?" Hewitt asked McConnell.
"I think in the middle of the election if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled. So I think it's highly unlikely," McConnell said. "In fact no, I don't think either party if it controlled, if it was different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of the election."
McConnell sought to justify his differing standard on Supreme Court vacancies, saying, "What was different in 2020 was that we were in the same party as the party of the president, and that's why we went ahead with it."
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) slammed McConnell's comments and warned his fellow Democratic colleagues in the Senate that they need to amend their strategy to overcome McConnell's obstruction.
"The Republicans are just playing a different game than Democrats," Murphy tweeted. "They have no regard for 'the institution.' They bend and change the rules whenever it suits their aims. Wish all my colleagues understood this."
McConnell's admission that he would block Biden from filling a Supreme Court seat is at the heart of the movement by Democrats to push liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire now, while Democrats control the Senate.
Brian Fallon, who runs an organization seeking to get more liberals onto the federal bench, has been at the forefront of pushing Breyer to retire.
"The longer that goes by without word from Breyer that he intends to step down at the end of this term, the more reckless it is," Fallon told Politico in April. "Mitch McConnell was not above directly calling judges to urge them to retire last year, so senators should not be so reluctant to state the obvious of what is at risk if Breyer does not take this opportunity to step down."
Because the Senate is currently a 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker that gives Democrats the majority, Republicans would need to flip just one seat in order to gain control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.