WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a recent interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that if the GOP is back in control of the U.S. Senate in 2024, that he would prevent President Joe Biden from filling a potential Supreme Court vacancy.
This is exactly what McConnell did to former President Barack Obama in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away prior to the 2020 election; the then-Senate Majority leader blocked Obama from nominating Merrick Garland – currently serving as U.S. Attorney General – to the empty seat, claiming that is was too close to the election.
That decision on the part of McConnell ran in sharp contrast to his decision to plow ahead last year to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett – after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – with fewer than two weeks remaining to the election at that time, a move he defended during Monday’s interview.
“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,” he said. “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. What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
This is a position McConnell has maintained since 2016, when he at the time said, “the Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago.” With that being the case, the Kentucky senator noted that he believed that the GOP was being consistent with history in regards to whom they did and did not choose to confirm for the Supreme Court.
However, Democrats dismissed that excuse and accused the GOP of being hypocrites, with then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, upon the nomination of Barrett in 2020, stating that “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.”