Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said his caucus would “absolutely” support filling a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy before the 2020 election, should one open up.
“We’re not going to leave a single vacancy behind by the end of next year,” the Kentucky Republican told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
After the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Mr. McConnell famously refused to hold hearings or a vote on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, saying the American people should have a chance to weigh in on the pick through the presidential election that fall.
On Tuesday, he said one would have to go back to the 1880s to find an example of a U.S. Senate controlled by a party that was different from the president filling a Supreme Court vacancy that opened in the middle of a presidential election campaign.
He also noted words from former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the current Democratic presidential front-runner, who urged then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992 not to fill a would-be vacancy on the Supreme Court ahead of that year’s presidential election.
“There was nothing I did that would not have been done had the shoe been on the other foot had there been a … Republican president and a Democratic Senate,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday. “So look, they can whine about this all day long, but under the Constitution there is co-responsibility for appointments — the president makes the nomination and the Senate confirms. We are partners in the personnel business, up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The GOP-controlled Senate ultimately did confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court picks, after Republicans voted to change the rules in 2017 to allow for a simple majority to thwart potential filibusters of nominees to the Supreme Court, instead of a 60-vote threshold.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats had muscled through changes in 2013 to reduce the filibuster threshold for most presidential nominees from 60 votes to a simple majority.