Now that Republicans are in charge of the Senate and the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’d be eager to confirm a new Supreme Court justice in 2020 should an opening happen.
Mr. McConnell was asked at the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce whether his chamber would fill a vacancy during a presidential election year now — something he refused to do in 2016.
“Oh, we’d fill it,” Mr. McConnell said as Chamber members laughed.
CNN noted that when Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Mr. McConnell refused to consider President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
David Popp, a McConnell spokesman, told CNN the differing partisan alignments — then there was a Democratic president and a Republican Senate — mean the circumstances have changed.
Mr. McConnell himself made that distinction at time of the Garland nomination, telling Fox News in an interview that a Senate confirming an opposite party’s Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year would actually be the unprecedented event.
“You have to go back to 1880s 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,” he said.
Still, Mr. McConnell made a broader point on the day of Scalia’s death, saying “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice” and thus the post should not be filled until after the election.
No hearings were ever held on Judge Garland’s nomination, to the outrage of liberals, and, when Donald Trump won the election, he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed by a narrow Republican majority in 2017.
Since then, at least one key Republican — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who now is Judiciary Committee chairman — has said Mr. McConnell has set a new precedent about election-year Supreme Court nominations.
“If an opening comes [on the Supreme Court] in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election,” Mr. Graham said last year, according to The Hill.
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