Senate

McConnell says Republicans would fill 2020 Supreme Court vacancy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans would fill a Supreme Court vacancy even if it occurs during the 2020 presidential election.
 
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. {mosads}
 
McConnell also used his official launch video for his 2020 Senate reelection campaign to highlight his work on helping confirm President Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
 
“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 Ginsburg is 86, Stephen Breyer is 80, and Clarence Thomas 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.
 
Democrats quickly blasted McConnell over his comments Tuesday, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling him a “hypocrite.”
McConnell sparked ire in 2016 when he refused to give a hearing or a vote to Merrick Garland, 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.
 
McConnell’s stance puts him publicly at odds with some Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
 
“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.
Tags Brett Kavanaugh Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Clarence Thomas Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell Neil Gorsuch Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer

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