McConnell signals willingness to consider SCOTUS nominee in election year

October 9, 2018

McConnell signals willingness to consider SCOTUS nominee in election year Erik Cox Photography /

After leading Republicans through a bruising battle to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has no plans to rest on his laurels.

The Senate Majority Leader suggested that he’s prepared to push a third nominee from President Donald Trump through to the high court if a vacancy comes up, even in 2020, a presidential election year.

“We’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020,” McConnell said Sunday.

McConnell ready for SCOTUS vacancy

In appearances on CBS’s Face the Nation and Fox News’ Fox News Sunday, McConnell was asked about pushing a potential nominee through in 2020. McConnell famously blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the court, Merrick Garland, two years ago during a presidential election year.

Then, the senator argued that delaying Garland’s nomination was justified because it was a presidential election year. While liberals will surely call McConnell a hypocrite for appearing to flip-flop, the senator said Sunday that he was holding to a tradition going back to the 1880s that specifically justifies delaying a nomination when the Senate and the White House are controlled by opposing parties.

“We simply followed the tradition in America, which is if you have a party of a different — a different Senate of a different party than the president, you don’t fill a vacancy created in the presidential year,” he told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “That went all the way back to 1888.”

Wallace pressed further:

WALLACE: I have to pick up on something that you said because — maybe I have this wrong, but when you blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination from president Obama, you basically said that we don’t do this in a presidential election year and that we wait until the election and then whoever the people choose, they get to pick the Supreme Court nominee. But what you just said now was it’s a question of whether or not it’s the party in control of the Senate is different than the president. The question I guess I’m getting to here is, if Donald Trump were to name somebody in the final year of his first term in 2020, are you saying that you would go ahead with that nomination?

MCCONNELL: Well, I understand your question of what I told you is what the history of the Senate has been. You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year on the Supreme Court was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the president. That’s the history –

WALLACE: So, if you can answer my direct question. Are you saying that if Donald Trump —

MCCONNELL: The answer to your question is, we’ll see if there’s a vacancy in 2020.

President Trump has a short-list of conservative judges to draw from should the opportunity arise to appoint another nominee before his first term is over. Many expect that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, will be the next to vacate her seat because of health or old age.

The list of potential replacements includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who was also considered for the seat that ended up going to Kavanaugh. A favorite among social conservatives, Barrett was widely seen as the runner-up for Kavanaugh’s seat and the ideal choice for the next open seat.

McConnell thanks Democrats

Ironically, Kavanaugh was once seen by many as a safe pick for the court compared to the more explicitly pro-life Barrett, but that all changed when he was accused of sexual assault, setting off a national controversy that deepened partisan divides and threw the nomination process into chaos. In the end, McConnell managed to lead Kavanaugh’s beleaguered nomination through to a successful 50-48 vote, the closest to confirm a justice since 1881, and Kavanaugh was officially sworn-in Saturday night.

Throughout the nomination battle, McConnell repeatedly chastised his colleagues across the aisle for playing games and attempting to destroy Kavanaugh’s life with a smear campaign. Since his weekend triumph, McConnell has been in high spirits, and a little smug, too, thanking “the mob” for getting conservatives fired up before the midterms.

Many liberals consider Garland’s seat stolen, adding insult to injury that Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed despite the allegations. Speaking to CBS, McConnell blamed the Democrats for poisoning the process and noted that the Republicans’ treatment of Garland doesn’t compare to what the Democrats did to Kavanaugh,

“We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him,” McConnell said. “We simply followed the tradition of America.”

It looks like things may get even worse for the Democrats if McConnell is successful with a third nominee.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.