McConnell: Republicans would confirm a justice during 2020 election
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Republicans would fill an opening on the Supreme Court if there were a vacancy next year — in contrast with 2016, when he stated his fierce opposition to confirming a justice in the last year of a president’s term.
Speaking in Kentucky, at a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce lunch, McConnell answered a question about how he would go about handling the death of a justice if it were to happen in 2020, when President Donald Trump is up for re-election. McConnell confidently replied, “Oh, we’d fill it.”
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CNN first reported McConnell’s remarks, which were broadcast on WPSD-TV.
The majority leader’s stance contrasts with his handling of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in February 2016. Scalia was an ardent conservative voice on the court, and Garland was a relatively moderate choice who had garnered the praise of Republicans in the past.
But McConnell declared that Obama, a Democrat, would not choose the next justice, saying that voters should have a say through their choice of the next president. He and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to the White House that they wouldn’t take up Obama’s nomination, and Garland never got a confirmation hearing.
The move infuriated Democrats, who argued that McConnell was robbing Obama of his authority to nominate a justice. After taking office in 2017, Trump filled the seat with Justice Neil Gorsuch. In 2020, Republicans will control both the White House and the Senate.
This was not the first time since the 2016 battle that McConnell entertained the possibility of filling a seat in an election year. Shortly after the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh last fall, McConnell said on “Fox New Sunday” that his resistance to confirming Garland was following the tradition of not filling a vacancy when the Senate and the presidency are controlled by different parties.
“We didn’t attack a nominee,” McConnell told Fox News’ Chris Wallace at the time.
A McConnell spokesman deferred Tuesday night to the majority leader‘s past comments on the topic.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer‘s spokesman Justin Goodman wrote on Twitter: “Props to the McConnell team for saying the quiet part out loud (and on the record)! They spent 3 years pretending he blocked Garland because of some kind of historical precedent. They finally admitted it’s because Garland was nominated by a Democrat.“
Schumer was more succinct and pointed in his own tweet: “Senator McConnell. is a hypocrite.”
| Senator McConnell. |
| is a |
| hypocrite. |
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— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 29, 2019
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.