Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday again reiterated his position that the GOP-led Senate would confirm a nominee to any Supreme Court vacancy that occurred this election year, despite leaving a seat vacant in 2016 and preventing President Barack Obama’s nominee from consideration.
“If you’re asking me a hypothetical … we would fill it,” the Kentucky Republican told Fox News Thursday.
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, McConnell had blocked the Senate from holding a hearing on Obama’s nominee, DC circuit judge Merrick Garland. McConnell had argued at the time that “this nomination ought to be made by the President we’re in the process of electing this year.”
McConnell also made clear GOP leaders would not take up Obama’s choice of Garland in a lame duck session even if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were to have won the presidential election.
The spot on the high court was eventually filled by Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick, in 2017.
On Fox News Friday, McConnell argued that the situation is different now than in 2016, because the Senate and the White House were controlled by different parties. This time, both are controlled by Republicans.
“Let me remind you what I said in 2016. I said you’d have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurring during a presidential election year was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the President. That was the situation in 2016. That would not be the situation in 2020,” he said.
The comments to Fox on Thursday echo remarks he made last year, when he used the same reasoning to explain why he’d fill a potential opening on the high court.
McConnell has made remaking the federal courts a key part of his Senate legacy. Since Trump’s election, the Supreme Court has solidified a conservative majority.