McConnell says Republicans would fill 2020 Supreme Court vacancy
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP vows to quickly quash any impeachment charges The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? MORE (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 Chamber 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.
McConnell also used his official launch video for his 2020 Senate reelection campaign to highlight his work on helping confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpCitizenship and Immigration Services union blasts Trump’s pick to head agency Texas secretary of state resigns after botched voter purge Trump hits Biden for 1994 crime bill support MORE‘s two Supreme Court nominees, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 Murkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchDemocratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Kennedy considering retiring from Supreme Court: reports MORE.
“What can’t be undone is a life-time 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 GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg’RBG’ gets four MTV Movie & TV Awards nominations Ginsburg returns to Supreme Court for oral arguments Ginsburg released from hospital following cancer surgery MORE is 86, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerJuan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Trump math: 1 + 1 + 1 = zero accountability Supreme Court justice’s cellphone rings during oral arguments MORE is 80 and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasJuan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Teflon Joe? Biden brushes off attacks Anita Hill: Female 2020 Democrats ‘not being taken seriously’ MORE is 70. Ginsburg and Breyer are both members of the court’s liberal wing, while Thomas is conservative. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are the court’s two youngest justices, at 51 and 54, respectively.
McConnell sparked ire in 2016 when he refused to give a hearing or a vote to Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian Garland2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Merrick Garland, denied Supreme Court spot, on court set to consider Trump subpoena appeal Warren calls for Congress to pass federal laws protecting Roe v. Wade MORE, 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.
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 were crucial factors in determining if a vacancy was 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.”
McConnell’s stance puts him publicly at odds with some Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP vows to quickly quash any impeachment charges Fox’s Chris Wallace challenges Graham over past comments on ignoring subpoenas Graham: ‘I’ve got a real problem’ with arms sales to Saudi Arabia MORE (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: 9:05 p.m.