Says “it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it controlled [the Senate], if it were [a] different [party] 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.”
Mitch McConnell regrets nothing about preventing consideration of Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in the last year of Obama’s second term, during a presidential year. In fact, McConnell considers it one of his greatest achievements.
Contrary to the way Democrats and the mainstream media portray it, McConnell was consistent when he then marshalled through Amy Coney Barret’s nomination during an election year when Trump was president.
The key point, which McConnell made during the Garland events, was that the party in control of the Senate differed from the party controlling the presidency, and in that circumstance historical practice was not to consider a SCOTUS nomination in a presidential election year.
As I pointed out in May 2019:
McConnell said this on March 1, 2016: “you’d have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was in the WH to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential year was confirmed by the party opposite the occupant of the WH. So this vacancy will not be filled this year.”
McConnell made a similar distinction in October 2018:
What I’m telling you is the history is 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.
.@senatemajldr: We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him. We simply followed the tradition in America, which is that if you have a Senate of a different party than the president, you don’t fill a vacancy created in a presidential year. pic.twitter.com/u1jm36EEbC
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) October 7, 2018
In 2020, Republicans controlled the Senate and the presidency, so the Garland precedent did not apply.
McConnell has been incredibly consistent on this point, and reiterated it again today during an interview with Hugh Hewitt. If Republicans regain control of the Senate in 2022, McConnell reserves the right to clock Biden SCOTUS appointments in 2024, a presidential election year. He would have to wait and see what he would do if Biden nominated someone beyond the 2024 calendar year:
“If you regain the majority in 2022 for the Republicans … would the rule that you applied in 2016 to the Scalia vacancy apply in 2024 to any vacancy that occurred then?” Hewitt asked.
“Well, 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 replied. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it controlled [the Senate], if it were [a] different [party] 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.”
When asked if he would consider a nominee from Biden in 2023, McConnell wouldn’t commit even to that, saying, “Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens.”
— The Recount (@therecount) June 14, 2021
McConnell reiterated that stopping Garland was his greatest achievement.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells @hughhewitt that keeping Scalia’s seat vacant until Gorsuch’s 2017 confirmation is “the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.” pic.twitter.com/5CBEmLrx6W
— The Recount (@therecount) June 14, 2021
The reaction was predictable:
As long as Mitch McConnell is in the US Senate, there is no such thing as bipartisanship.
Kill the filibuster.
Expand the Supreme Court.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) June 14, 2021
Arguably, nobody has caused more damage to the American body politic than Mitch McConnell over the past 20 years.
Remember that when he dies and white media goes soft on his obituary.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) June 14, 2021
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) June 14, 2021
Democrats are using the comment to renew their pressure campaign to get Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at the end of the current term in June:
“Breyer needs to retire,” liberal activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted. “Greatness in public service has to also mean knowing when it’s time to pass the baton, and it’s time.”
“Certainly feels good to yell online about this,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau added, “but the only audience that really matters is Stephen Breyer, @JoeManchinWV, @kyrstensinema, and a handful of other Senate Dems who are hiding behind them.”
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who has been vocal in supporting packing the Supreme Court and in calling for Breyer to step down, also weighed in on McConnell’s comment.
“When I became the first person in Congress to call for Justice Breyer to retire now, while President Biden can still appoint a successor, some people asked whether it was necessary,” Jones said. “Yes. Yes, it is.”
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