McConnell says Republicans would fill 2020 Supreme Court vacancy

 
McConnell was asked by an attendee during a speech at the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce public policy luncheon in Kentucky what his position would be on filling a Supreme Court seat during 2020 if a justice died.
 
"Oh, we'd fill it," McConnell said to laughter from the audience.
 
The Senate GOP leader has viewed confirming judicial nominees as his top priority and one of the party's best chances at having a long-term impact. With 53 seats, Republicans could confirm a nominee over the objections of Democrats.
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McConnell also used his official launch video for his 2020 Senate reelection campaign to highlight his work on helping confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE's two Supreme Court nominees, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughProgressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Trump nominates former Kavanaugh clerk for influential appeals court Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchHillicon Valley: Twitter says Chinese official's virus disinformation doesn't violate rules | Hackers target WHO | Senators urge agencies to stop coronavirus robocalls Supreme Court raises bar for racial discrimination claims in contracts Progressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives MORE.
 
"What can't be undone is a lifetime appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of the judge is to follow the law," McConnell said in Kentucky on Tuesday, contrasting the long-term impact of judicial nominations with the GOP tax bill.
 
Three of the nine current justices on the Supreme Court are 70 or older: Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court postpones April arguments Ginsburg's personal trainer says she's working out amid the pandemic Supreme Court raises bar for racial discrimination claims in contracts MORE is 86, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSupreme Court postpones April arguments Supreme Court rules states can eliminate insanity defense Supreme Court postpones oral arguments amid coronavirus pandemic MORE is 80, and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasSupreme Court postpones April arguments Supreme Court rules Citgo responsible for 2004 oil spill Trump steps up intensity in battle with media MORE is 70. Ginsburg and Breyer are both members of the court's liberal wing, while Thomas is a conservative. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are the court's two youngest justices, at 51 and 54, respectively.
 
McConnell sparked ire in 2016 when he refused to give a hearing or a vote to Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDC wine bar loses appeal in lawsuit against Trump hotel Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate The Trumpification of the federal courts MORE, then-President Obama's final Supreme Court pick.
 
The GOP leader said at the time that he was refusing to move on Garland's nomination to replace the late justice Antonin Scalia because it was a presidential election year, and that the next president should make a decision on who to appoint to the high court.
 
"The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President," McConnell said in a statement hours after Scalia died in February 2016.
 
A spokesman for McConnell told CNN, which first reported his remarks on Tuesday, that the difference was that in 2020 both the Senate and White House would be controlled by Republicans. In 2016, the White House was controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans.
 
Defending the decision not to move on Garland's nomination, McConnell told Fox News during a March 2016 interview that Republicans were "following a long-standing tradition of not filling vacancies on the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election year." But he also noted in a February 2016 floor speech that it had been 130 years since "a nominee was confirmed in similar circumstances," referring to divided government.
 
McConnell had previously refused to rule out filling a Supreme Court vacancy if one should occur in 2020.
 
“We’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020,” McConnell said last year after Kavanaugh's confirmation.
 
McConnell indicated during an interview with Fox News that which party controls the Senate and the White House is a crucial factor in determining if a vacancy gets filled.
 
"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.
 
 
"If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election," Graham said last year at an event hosted by The Atlantic.
 
Updated: 9:45 p.m.