WASHINGTON — Mitch McConnell said Monday it’s “highly unlikely” he’d allow President Joe Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if he were Senate majority leader, once again stirring liberals’ fears about the composition of the country’s highest court and the importance of next year’s midterm elections.
“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,” McConnell told conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt. “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.”
In the fall of 2020, McConnell rushed to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, muscling through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett in late October by a vote of 52-48.
In defending that decision, he said, “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
McConnell even left open the option of keeping a Supreme Court seat vacant in 2023 if Republicans take back the Senate majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
“We’d have to wait and see what happens,” he told Hewitt.
The Kentuckian said keeping the seat of Justice Anthony Scalia open through most of 2016 when Barack Obama was president was the “single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.”
“I preserved the Scalia vacancy for the Gorsuch appointment,” McConnell said, referencing Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and became a justice in April 2017.
McConnell’s comments will likely be raised as a rallying cry by progressives in midterm races across the country. With a 50-50 Senate, every seat on the map will determine whether McConnell returns to power.
“Mitch McConnell will block any Biden nominee for the Supreme Court if Republicans control the Senate by 2024,” said Keith Boykin, a liberal CNN commentator. “Now tell Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema that bipartisanship is a lie and the filibuster must be eliminated. And tell Stephen Breyer to retire.”©2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit at mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.