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McConnell: GOP would 'absolutely' fill Supreme Court seat next year

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.) pledged Tuesday that Republicans would fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2019 or 2020, arguing the dynamic is different now than when the party held open a seat in 2016.

Asked during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt if Republicans would support filing a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 2019 or 2020, McConnell said "absolutely."

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McConnell has earned fierce pushback for blocking Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandMurkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Watch live: Senate panel votes on Biden's attorney general nominee MORE, former President Obama's final Supreme Court nominee, from getting a hearing or a vote. But he's said that Republicans would fill a vacancy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He has argued that there was a divided government in 2016, but there would not be in 2019 or 2020 because Republicans control both the Senate and White House.

"You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time, back to 1880s to find the last time a Senate of a different party from the president filled a Supreme Court vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election. That was entirely the precedent," McConnell said on Tuesday about his decision to block Garland.

"There was nothing I did that was, would not have been done had the shoe been on the other foot had there been a … Republican president and a Democratic Senate. So look, they can whine about this all day long. But under the Constitution, there is co-responsibility for appointments," McConnell added.

Republicans have put a premium on confirming President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE's judicial nominees. In addition to setting a record on the number of circuit court picks confirmed, Trump has also gotten two Supreme Court nominees through the GOP-controlled Senate. Trump's two nominees, Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court faces landmark challenge on voting rights Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughJustices hear sparring over scope of safeguards for minority voters Supreme Court faces landmark challenge on voting rights Will 'Cover-up Cuomo' be marching to 'Jail to the Chief'? MORE, at 52 and 54, respectively, are the court's two youngest justices.

Three of the nine current justices on the Supreme Court are 70 or older: Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgBill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE is 86, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSupreme Court weighs police power to conduct warrantless searches A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Supreme Court clears way for extradition of alleged Ghosn escape plotters MORE is 81, and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasVernon Jordan: an American legend, and a good friend Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election MORE is 71. Ginsburg and Breyer are both members of the court's liberal wing, while Thomas is a conservative. 

The Supreme Court announced last month that Ginsburg had completed three weeks of radiation treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas.

“This audience can see that I am alive. And I am on my way to being very well,” she said at the annual National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.