McConnell pledges to work with Democratic president on Supreme Court vacancy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.) says he would give a new Democratic president’s nominee to the Supreme Court a hearing and vote in 2021, but isn’t making any promises that person would win confirmation in a GOP-controlled Senate.

McConnell noted that two of President Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees failed to pass the Senate and warned the same fate could befall a newly elected Democratic president if he or she nominated someone Republicans considered too far to the left.

“A lot of it depends on the timing of the vacancy. Obviously if you have a vacancy in the first year of a term of a president, you’re not going to fail to fill that vacancy for a very lengthy period of time, no matter what the political composition is,” McConnell told reporters.

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The GOP leader's comment came in response to a question about the prospect of a Democratic president nominating a liberal candidate for the Supreme Court should Republicans maintain control of the Senate, which is responsible for confirming justices.

Still, McConnell warned that one or multiple nominees could be defeated, depending on their judicial views.

“The nominee might or might not be confirmed, depending on how controversial the nominee is. But as a practical matter I don’t think in the first year in any administration you would react in the same way you did in the middle of a presidential election with a vacancy,” he added.

McConnell has hailed as one of his greatest accomplishments the blocking of President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Law professor: Court-packing should be 'last resort' Here's how senators can overcome their hyperpartisanship with judicial nominees MORE, in the final year of his presidency.

McConnell kept the seat that opened following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia vacant for nearly 10 months, past the 2016 election.

After President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE defeated Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE, McConnell changed the Senate’s filibuster rule to confirm Trump's pick for the court, conservative Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchTrump wishes Ginsburg well after radiation treatment for tumor Ginsburg completes radiation treatment for cancerous tumor McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE.

Republicans control a 53-47 majority, which means that Democrats would need to pick up at least three seats in the 2020 elections to regain the Senate majority under a Democratic president.

McConnell, however, declined to say what he would do if a Democratic president nominated a justice later in his term, such as in the third year.

“It’s politically unsustainable to keep a vacancy unaddressed, which doesn’t mean — I mean Richard Nixon, for example, had two Supreme Court Justices in a row voted down — so it took a while for somebody to finally be confirmed,” he said.

“So you’re asking me all kinds of hypotheticals. What I’m telling you is a lot of it depends on when the vacancy occurs, what kind of nominee do you get, and the outcome you get depends many times on the nature of the nominee,” he added.

The prospect of working with McConnell was a topic of the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night in Miami.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-N.J.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the best option is for Democrats to take back control of the Senate and avoid having to negotiate with McConnell at all on the Senate schedule.

“This is about getting us back to having 50 votes in the Senate and more so that we cannot only balance the Supreme Court, but start to pass an aggressive agenda that, frankly, isn’t so aggressive because most of America agrees with the policy objectives of our party,” he said.