Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated on Sunday that if Republicans retain their majority of the chamber by 2020 a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed provided there is a vacancy on the court.
McConnell, who was speaking to Fox News and CBS News, suggested that he may seek to have a SCOTUS nominee confirmed in President Donald Trump’s final year in office if his political party still controls the Senate, as presidents are unlikely to have a nominee confirmed to the court when the opposite party has majority in the chamber.
“You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a Senate controlled by a party different from the president filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created in the middle of a presidential election year. That’s been the history,” he said, according to CNN.
Asked whether he would allow a nominee to be confirmed, McConnell just said, “we will see if there’s a vacancy in 2020,” avoiding a direct answer. His comments are in stark contrast to his actions from 2016 when he denied Judge Merrick Garland, the nominee of then-president Barack Obama, any hearings or votes.
Back then, Republicans who controlled the Senate argued that the next nominee for the Supreme Court seat, which the death of Antonin Scalia left vacant, should be chosen by the next president. At the time, their arguments were not focused on the party controlling the Senate, basing their decision on the proximity of the elections.
In defending his decision to block Garland’s nomination, the Senate majority leader said, “What I did was entirely consistent with what the history of the Senate has been in that situation going back to 1880.”