(W.E) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he may not allow the Senate to vote on a Supreme Court nominee a full 18 months before the 2024 election if he is the majority leader and a high court vacancy occurs.
McConnell, appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Monday, hedged when Hewitt suggested that a Republican majority might be willing to bring up a Democratic high court nominee in mid-2023 if President Joe Biden selects “a normal, mainstream liberal.”
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” the Kentucky Republican said.
As for a 2024 Supreme Court vacancy under a GOP-controlled Senate, forget it, McConnell said.
McConnell told Hewitt that “it’s highly unlikely” a 2024 Supreme Court vacancy would be filled, just as it was left vacant in 2016 when McConnell blocked consideration of then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly.
“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 said.
McConnell infuriated Democrats by not only rejecting Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia in 2016, but later by allowing a vote on former President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett just days before the November 2020 election.
Democrats said McConnell was using the policy selectively to benefit his own party, but McConnell said it’s a tactic Democrats would also use if the opportunity arose.
“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” McConnell said, explaining Barrett’s confirmation.
Garland is now Biden’s attorney general, and some in the Democratic base are pressuring Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, to retire soon in order to ensure Biden can nominate a replacement and that the Senate is in Democratic hands to ensure confirmation.
The Senate is split 50 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing Democrats with a bare majority through her tiebreaking vote. Judicial nominees require only 51 votes to win confirmation.
Republicans are vying to win back the majority in the November 2022 election, which would give them control of the Senate floor and empower the party to decide which nominations will get a vote.