Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News on Thursday that the Senate would confirm one of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominees if a vacancy opens in 2020 — despite it being an election year.
"I'm not aware of any vacancy, but if you're asking me a hypothetical about whether this Republican Senate would confirm a member of the Supreme Court to a vacancy created this year — yeah, we would fill it," McConnell told Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Thursday.
McConnell directly contradicted the precedent he set in 2016. Citing an election year vacancy, McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans refused to even hold hearings for Merrick Garland when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by then President Barack Obama after the death of Antonin Scalia.
"The American people should have a say in the court's direction," McConnell said at the time. "It is a president's constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate's constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent."
By blocking Obama's nominee, McConnell paved the way Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch, who was ultimately confirmed as an associate justice.
McConnell seemed to anticipate these criticisms in his interview with Baier.
"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," McConnell told Baier.
This is not the first time that McConnell has admitted that he would not apply the same standard used for confirming Supreme Court nominees in 2016 again in 2020. Speaking to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky in May, McConnell assured his audience that he would fill a Supreme Court seat if one opened during this election cycle.
"What can't be undone is a lifetime 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 at the time. "That's the most important thing we've done in the country, which cannot be undone."
McConnell's remark sparked outrage among Democrats, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting that "it's no surprise. @SenateMajLdr McConnell lives for GOP judges because he knows the GOP agenda is so radical & unpopular they can only achieve it in courts. Anyone who believes he'd ever allow confirmation of a Dem President's nominee for SCOTUS is fooling themselves."
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