In a move certain to spark outrage on the left, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday declared that should Republicans reclaim the majority in next year’s midterm elections, he would be unlikely to permit President Joe Biden to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 2024, or perhaps even in 2023, as NBC News reports.
During an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, McConnell was asked whether a Biden nominee would be given “a fair shot at a hearing,” provided that individual is “not a radical, but a normal mainstream liberal,” if and when he returns to the majority leader position.
Unwilling to commit to such a scenario, McConnell replied, “Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” at least when it comes to a possible vacancy in 2023. With regard to an opening on the bench in 2024, the Kentucky Republican was a bit firmer in his resolve.
McConnell signaled that he would likely assume the same tack he took in 2016 when he took steps to halt progress on former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the high court, as CBS News noted.
“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 – 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.”
Surely anticipating accusations of hypocrisy from the other side of the aisle, McConnell asserted his belief that Democrats would act in an identical manner if they held the majority in the Senate and a Republican president sought to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during an election cycle.
These latest comments from McConnell may prompt Democrats and far-left interest groups to amplify their previous calls for liberal Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from the court at the end of the current term so that Biden can nominate his replacement and party colleagues in the Senate can assure confirmation.
Just this past weekend, progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the ranks of those on the left calling for Breyer’s departure. When asked by CNN’s Dana Bash about whether the justice needs to consider a strategic retirement, the congresswoman replied, according to The Hill, “You know, I – it’s something that I’d think about, but I would probably lean towards yes.”
Now that Biden has empaneled a commission to analyze issues including “the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” something which some believe is a precursor to a court packing attempt, it is at least reassuring that McConnell appears ready to do everything possible to preserve the conservative shift on the bench achieved by former President Donald Trump during his tenure in the Oval Office.