McConnell confirmed he would hold open a hypothetical Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 or 2023.
The minority leader said it would be “highly unlikely” he would allow Biden to fill a vacancy.
McConnell blocked Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from getting a hearing in 2016.
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday confirmed that if he becomes majority leader again, he would block President Joe Biden from filling a Supreme Court seat if one becomes vacant in 2024, and possibly in 2023 as well.
McConnell told the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that if he were leading the Senate, it would be “highly unlikely” that he’d allow Biden to fill a seat if one came up in the last year of his presidency.
“Well, I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled. So I think it’s highly unlikely,” McConnell told Hewitt when asked if he would fill a hypothetical vacancy.
After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, McConnell refused to hold hearings for former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and current Attorney General Merrick Garland. He said he wouldn’t fill the seat until after the 2016 election, won by Republican President Donald Trump.
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“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 at the time.
Scalia’s replacement, Justice Neil Gorsuch, didn’t take his seat on the court until a year later, when Trump was in office.
McConnell told Hewitt that leaving Scalia’s seat open until Trump took office was “the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.”
In all, McConnell shepherded through three Supreme Court nominees during the Trump administration to create a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.
Most recently, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died about six weeks before the November 2020 presidential election, McConnell succeeded in swiftly confirming her replacement, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
“The Brett Kavanaugh appointment was certainly challenging and controversial, and of course, we had very little time left when Justice Ginsburg passed away, and that took a good deal of priority and, I think, skill to get Amy Coney Barrett through,” McConnell told Hewitt.
McConnell has long argued that the Senate is justified in holding open a Supreme Court seat ahead of an election if the Senate and presidency are controlled by different parties. In 2020, when Ginsburg’s seat became vacant, Republicans controlled the Senate.
“In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election. What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” McConnell said.
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