Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would probably block President Biden from appointing a new Supreme Court justice in 2024 if Republicans retake the Senate in the midterms, in an interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show on Monday.
“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 host Hugh Hewitt.
“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,” McConnell added. “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
President Trump nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in September 2020, following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republicans held a majority of 53 Senate seats at the time, and confirmed Barrett to the court a week before the presidential election.
Following the death of Justice Antoni Scalia in February 2016, then-President Obama nominated attorney Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. However, McConnell, who was majority leader at that time, blocked Senate confirmation hearings for Garland, arguing that it wouldn’t be fair to voters to confirm a justice during an election year while the government was divided.
The Senate went on to approve three conservative justices during the Trump administration and McConnell was accused of hypocrisy for the final confirmation, that of Amy Coney Barrett, since it occurred during an election year. He responded by arguing that the confirmation didn’t violate the precedent he set under Obama, since Republicans held the White House and the Senate when Barrett was confirmed.
Hewitt also asked McConnell whether he would consider allowing Biden to fill a vacancy in 2023, should a vacancy arise.
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.
The conversation on Monday occurred amid renewed calls from progressives for Justice Stephen Breyer to retire, while Democrats hold the presidency and 50 seats in the Senate. At 82 years old, Breyer is currently the oldest justice on the bench.
“When I became the first person in Congress to call for Justice Breyer to retire now, while President Biden can still appoint a successor, some people asked whether it was necessary,” Representative Mondaire Jones (D., N.Y.) wrote on Twitter in response to McConnell’s interview. “Yes. Yes, it is.”