Amid Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent health scare, some have speculated that President Donald Trump may soon get the chance to appoint a third justice to the high court. But what would happen if an opening on the court came during the upcoming election year? Would Congress demand that the appointment be put off until after Trump — or his successor — took office, like in 2016?
Not according to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Senate Majority Leader revealed earlier this week that presidential election year or not, his Congress would “absolutely” vote on a SCOTUS nominee in 2020, if given the chance.
No questions asked
McConnell first made his position known in May, according to the Associated Press. Asked by a reporter in Kentucky what he’d do if a vacancy arose on the court, the senator responded curtly: “Oh, we’d fill it.”
Since then, McConnell has reiterated his stance on several occasions — including, most recently, this Tuesday on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Predictably, the senator’s remarks sparked controversy among many on the left who called it hypocritical, pointing to McConnell’s role in blocking then-President Barack Obama’s pick — Merrick Garland — from taking the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. (Trump later filled that slot with Justice Neil Gorsuch.)
But according to McConnell, the situation is different this time around.
“You have to go…back to 1880s to find the last time a Senate of a different party from the president filled a Supreme Court vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election,” McConnell said Tuesday, according to The Washington Examiner. “That was entirely the precedent.”
Kicking, whining, and screaming
In other words, McConnell says that by blocking Garland’s confirmation, he was simply adhering to an established principle that a Congress of a different party than the president is allowed to block a nominee for no other reason than that it is an election year.
“There was nothing I did that would not have been done had the shoe been on the other foot,” the senator continued.
“So look, they can whine about this all day long,” McConnell said of Democrats, “but under the Constitution, there is co-responsibility for appointments. The president makes the nomination, and the Senate confirms. We are partners in the personnel business up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.”
With Republicans controlling both the White House and the Senate, McConnell says there would be nothing unprecedented about his Congress confirming a Trump Supreme Court pick.
Nonetheless, Democrats would disagree — and should the opportunity arise, they are no doubt ready to do whatever it takes to prevent Trump from ensuring a conservative majority on the high court for decades to come.