Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) called for the Senate to vote on a new Supreme Court justice sometime “this year,” and argued that a confirmation hearing could take place before the November elections.
McConnell made his remarks in a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, while Republicans and Democrats gear up for a fight over the nomination that could occur in the midst of election campaigns.
“President Trump’s nominee for a vacancy will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell said.
McConnell also attacked Democrats for “an astonishing parade of misrepresentations” regarding his own position on whether it would be appropriate to nominate a justice so close to the election. In 2016, following the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Obama nominee Merrick Garland.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said in February 2016 shortly after Scalia’s death. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
However, McConnell said his current stance is not comparable to his position from 2016. The majority leader pointed out that in 2016, the Senate was held by Republicans while the president was a Democrat. The last time a Supreme Court vacancy occurred in an election year with opposing parties in the Senate and White House was in 1888.
Quoting verbatim his own comments from a February 2016 Senate session, McConnell said, “The Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was a divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago.”
McConnell further asserted that the Senate would have enough time to confirm a new justice before the November elections if it chose to do so, although he did not explicitly say whether a vote would occur before or after the elections.