Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has no intention of waiting around to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy, even if it arises during an election year.
The Republican lawmaker made it clear to Fox News’ Brett Baier last week that he won’t let himself be bound by the rationale he used to reject Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. Although no Supreme Court vacancies have opened since Anthony Kennedy’s retirement set off the Brett Kavanaugh cataclysm, speculation of such has kept progressives fearful of a conservative takeover on edge.
“If you’re asking me a hypothetical about whether this Republican Senate would confirm a member of the Supreme Court due to a vacancy created this year — yeah, we would fill it,” McConnell declared.
McConnell: SCOTUS vacancy would be filled
Democrats have never forgiven McConnell for blocking Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016, Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was a presidential election year. McConnell has since helped Trump confirm two justices to the Supreme Court, and he has repeatedly affirmed that he would not hesitate to fill another vacancy if one opens up in 2020, according to The Hill.
The Republican reiterated that position to Baier, explaining that the situation in 2020 is not the same as the scenario in 2016, in which the White House and the Senate were controlled by different parties. He pointed to the precedent that a president has not filled a vacancy with a nominee confirmed by the opposing party during a presidential election year since the 1800s.
“Let me remind you what I said in 2016. I said you’d have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurring during a presidential election year was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the President. That was the situation in 2016. That would not be the situation in 2020,” he said.
Back to business
The self-avowed “Grim Reaper” has been painted by Democrats as a villain for killing Democrat bills and using hardline tactics when it comes to procedural fights. He received thanks from president Trump for playing an instrumental role in rallying Republicans to acquit Trump of impeachment charges earlier this month.
“I think it’s pretty clear that House Democrats just don’t like the president,” he told Baier.
True to form, McConnell immediately moved to begin vetting more judicial nominees as soon as Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges earlier this month. Judge Andrew Brasher was confirmed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, less than a week after Trump’s acquittal, over the objections of Democrats and left-wing activist groups who complained that his candidly conservative viewpoints made him unqualified for the position. Brasher is just the latest Trump nominee to face that kind of criticism from an increasingly intolerant left.
Trump has now appointed 51 appeals court judges and nearly 200 federal judges overall, and he has flipped the 2nd, 3rd, and 11th circuit courts red, Fox News reported. McConnell touted his work in confirming strict constructionists who interpret the Constitution as written, something he called his “top priority” as majority leader:
We’ve done now 51 circuit judges in three years. It took president Obama eight years to do 55. I think changing the court system, putting in place men and women who believe that their job is to actually interpret the laws as written is the most important long-term thing we can do for the country, and yes, it’s my top priority.
Asked if he hopes there are any vacancies left on the federal judiciary when the Congress ends, he said simply, “I hope not.”
Although no Supreme Court vacancies have opened recently, speculation about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age and health have prompted conjecture about a Supreme Court fight in 2020. It would be a battle for the history books, for sure.