Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he would block a Supreme Court nominee from President Biden in 2024 if Republicans are in the Senate majority – just as he did in 2016 after the death of late Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell, R-Ky., made the comment in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The commitment follows a controversial decision McConnell made last year to plow ahead in confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett less than two weeks before Election Day.
“I think in the middle of a presidential 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,” McConnell told Hewitt.
“So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell added. “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., departs after speaking with reporters after a Republican caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Indeed, McConnell said as early as Feb. 22, 2016, that “the Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago.” For that reason, McConnell says, Republicans were being consistent when they confirmed Barrett after stonewalling now-Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016.
But Democrats accused Republicans of naked hypocrisy for confirming a Supreme Court justice during an election year in 2020 after declining to do so in 2016.
“Let the record show that tonight, the Republican Senate majority decided to thwart the will of the people and confirm a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election, after a more than 60 million Americans have voted,” then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said when Barrett was nominated.
“And let the record show that tonight, the Republican majority will make a mockery of its own stated principle — that the American people deserve a voice in the selection of Supreme Court Justices — completing the partisan theft of two seats on the Supreme Court using completely contradictory rationales,” Schumer, now the majority leader, added.
McConnell on Monday also panned the push by some Democrats to pack the Supreme Court, citing Clinton-appointed Justice Stephen Breyer’s recent comments about the danger of politicizing the Supreme Court in that way.
“You mentioned Justice Breyer. I do want to give him a shout-out,” McConnell said on Hewitt’s program. “[H]e joined what Justice Ginsburg said in 2019 that nine is the right number for the Supreme Court. And I admire him for that. I think even the liberal justices on the Supreme Court have made it clear that court packing is a terrible idea.”
McConnell also discussed the infrastructure proposal by a bipartisan group of senators, saying the effort has a “maybe 50-50” chance of success. But McConnell also laid out Republicans’ “red lines,” including repealing the 2017 tax cuts.
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.