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McConnell blasts Democrats over talk of court-packing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday knocked Democrats over their ongoing debate about expanding the Supreme Court to appoint more liberal justices, an idea backed by a growing number of 2020 presidential candidates. 

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said adding seats to the high court is an "absurd notion" and accused Democrats of wanting to retaliate because they lost the 2016 White House race. 

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"The idea that sometimes they lose elections and Republican presidents sometimes subsequently appoint Supreme Court justices is apparently no longer tolerated," McConnell said. 

He added that the "far left" was trying "rewrite the rules" to "stack the court." 

"So out of the ash heap of history came this talk of ‘court-packing.’ A notion that would threaten the rule of law and our American judicial system as we have long understood it. A radical proposal that has been dead and buried by bipartisan consensus for almost a century," McConnell added.

Once dismissed as a fringe idea, reforming the nation’s highest court is gaining traction with a growing number of Democratic 2020 candidates as progressive outside groups and high-profile officials, including former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderDemocratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill Biden: 'Simply wrong' for Trump DOJ to seek journalists' phone records Returning the ghost of Eric Holder to the Justice Department MORE, have vaulted the idea into the national spotlight.

Supporters argue that it's necessary since Republicans and Trump have confirmed two Supreme Court justices and a historic number of influential circuit court judges after refusing to take up former President Obama’s final Supreme Court nomination in 2016. Republicans nixed the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court picks in 2017 and have moved appeals judges over the objections of home-state senators. 

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Mark Cuban: ProPublica 'not being honest' about taxes on wealthy On The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisLara Trump calls on Americans at border to 'arm up and get guns and be ready' The press has its own border problem Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration MORE (D-Calif.) told Politico that the option should be on the table as part of a larger conversation among Democrats about the direction of the American judicial system. And Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' Cher apologizes for confusing Sinema, Gillibrand MORE (D-N.Y.) told "Pod Save America" that the idea was “interesting” and she would “need to think more about it.”  

Republicans have seized on the fight as an example of Democrats shifting further to the left ahead of the 2020 election.

McConnell, on Thursday, urged Democratic senators to push back against talk of expanding the Supreme Court. 

"I hope my colleagues will have the courage to look at these far-left agitators in the eye and tell them that some traditions and some institutions are more important than partisan point scoring," McConnell said. "I have to say at this point that kind of courageous statement would come as a pleasant surprise."