Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats 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 GarlandMedia leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations Garland sparks anger with willingness to side with Trump Garland vows fight against voting limits that violate law 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 BarrettSupreme Court confounding its partisan critics Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant MORE, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short 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 BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE in 2020.
There are no vacancies on the Supreme Court, though progressives are trying to publicly pressure Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSunday shows – Biden foreign policy in focus Ocasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics 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.