On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY), previewed his continuing desire to implement what Talking Points Memo calls his “no Supreme Court justices for Democratic presidents” rule.
In an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell said that if Republicans regain the majority in 2022 and he is once again Majority Leader, that it would be “highly unlikely” he would allow President Joe Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy should one open during the 2024 presidential election season:
“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.”
Hewitt continued to press McConnell on the question, asking about a forced 18-month vacancy:
“Again, if you were back as the Senate Republican Leader, and I hope you are, and a Democrat retires at the end of 2023, and there are 18 months, that would be the Anthony Kennedy precedent. Would they get a fair shot at a hearing, not a radical, but a normal mainstream liberal?”
To which McConnell responded:
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens.”
McConnell, of course, has famously spent a majority of his career alternately blocking moderate/liberal judicial nominees during Barack Obama’s two terms and then aggressively pursuing the confirmation of conservative justices during Donald Trump’s one term.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, McConnell said “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” and left that seat vacant with his refusal to consider Obama’s pick, current Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Then, in 2020, McConnell changed his own rule after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg by ramming through her replacement during the election season.
McConnell said in 2018 that “who controls the Senate when you have a vacancy that close to an election makes a big difference,” which should have been a warning to Democrats that he would continue to change the rules to fit his agenda as long and aggressively as he can.
Days after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just before the 2020 election, McConnell said the Republican Senate would continue filling vacancies throughout January, regardless of who would end up the majority party after the election.
Talking Points Memo again sums it up:
In McConnell’s 2024 hypothetical on Monday, he applied the same logic as he did to push through Barrett with just weeks before a new administration.
“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 a presidential election,” he said. “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president, and that’s why we went ahead with it.”
Last November, it was reported that former chief of staff to McConnell, Josh Holmes, stated in a documentary that McConnell had pushed for Trump to quickly nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court shortly after he heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.
Holmes made the comments in a documentary called “Frontline.” The documentary has been dubbed “Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court,” looks at how the nation’s highest court has transformed over the years.
In the documentary, Holmes says that McConnell contacted Trump shortly after Ginsburg’s death on Friday, Sept. 18.
“McConnell told Trump two things,” Holmes said. “McConnell said, ‘First, I’m going to put out a statement that says we’re going to fill the vacancy.’ Second, he said, ‘You’ve gotta nominate Amy Coney Barrett.’”
Shortly after Ginsburg’s death, her family shared that her most “most fervent wish” was for her seat not to be filled before a new president takes office in 2020.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” her granddaughter wrote in a statement.
Just eight days after Ginsburg’s passing, Trump nominated Barrett to fill her seat on the Supreme Court.