McConnell signals GOP would block Biden Supreme Court pick in '24

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: 'It never occurred to me' convincing Americans to get vaccinated would be difficult The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) signaled Monday that Republicans, if they win back control of the upper chamber, wouldn't advance a Supreme Court nominee if a vacancy occurred in 2024, the year of the next presidential election. 

"I think it's highly unlikely — in fact, no, I don't think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election," McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt.

McConnell was asked if a GOP-controlled Senate would take the same tack in 2024 that it did in 2016, when they refused to give Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandDOJ issues warnings to states on voting laws and audits White House seeks to shield Biden from GOP attacks on crime issue Protesters shut down Greene-Gaetz Jan. 6 event MORE, former President Obama's final Supreme Court pick, a hearing or a vote on his nomination to fill the vacancy created by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans subsequently confirmed Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week Anti-abortion movement eyes its holy grail Abortion rights face most difficult test yet at Supreme Court MORE, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE's third Supreme Court nominee, in 2020, locking in a 6-3 conservative majority. The move, which sparked howls from Democrats, set a new record for how closely before a presidential election a Senate has confirmed a Supreme Court nominee.

McConnell and Republicans have defended their strategy by noting that in 2016 there was a split in which party controlled the Senate and the White House, compared to in 2020, when they were both controlled by Republicans.

McConnell's office, in 2020, also pointed back to examples in 2016, where he talked about how long it had been since a Senate majority of another party had confirmed a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential election year.

McConnell's comments come as his party is trying to wrestle back control of the chamber, which is currently a 50-50 Democratic majority, during next year's midterm elections. McConnell and Republicans are defending 20 seats, while Democrats are defending 14. Republicans will be defending four seats where GOP senators are retiring and in two states that were carried by President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE in 2020.

There are no vacancies on the Supreme Court, though progressives are trying to publicly pressure Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Biden's belated filibuster decision: A pretense of principle at work Klobuchar: If Breyer is going to retire from Supreme Court, it should be sooner rather than later MORE, who is 82, to retire so that Democrats can fill his seat with someone younger while they still control the majority.

ADVERTISEMENT

If the GOP can take back the Senate majority, it would have leverage on Biden nominees for the final two years of his presidential term.

McConnell declined to say what Republicans would do if a justice stepped down in mid-2023 and Republican controlled the Senate.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens," McConnell said, asked by Hewitt if the nominee would get a fair shot.