Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default 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 GarlandTexas sues Biden administration over guidance on transgender worker rights Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Grassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation 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.
Republicans subsequently confirmed Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettAre COVID-19 vaccine mandates a strategy to end the pandemic? New Hampshire state representative leaves GOP over opposition to vaccine mandate Barrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' MORE, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default 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 BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE in 2020.
There are no vacancies on the Supreme Court, though progressives are trying to publicly pressure Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerBarrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' Sunday shows - Manchin says he won't vote for .5 trillion bill Breyer says term limits would 'make life easier for me' MORE, who is 82, to retire so that Democrats can fill his seat with someone younger while they still control the majority.
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.