McConnell refused to confirm Obama’s Supreme Court nominee during an election year. But for a 2020 vacancy? “Oh, we’d fill it.”
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully kept Obama appointee Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court bench by insisting it would be a cardinal sin if a Supreme Court justice was appointed during a presidential election year. “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide,” McConnell said at the time, insisting that his decision was “about a principle, not a person.” But in an unsurprising turn of events, the senator is perfectly willing to sacrifice those principles when a Republican is in the Oval Office.
McConnell revealed during an event Tuesday that he’s ready and waiting to confirm a Supreme Court justice in 2020 if a seat becomes vacant—never mind the fact that in November, Americans will once again be heading to the polls. When asked at the Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon what his position would be should a justice die in 2020, McConnell reportedly took a long sip of iced tea and said with a smile: “Oh, we’d fill it.” The senator had previously been asked about a potential SCOTUS vacancy in October, but had been more evasive at the time, saying only, “We’ll see whether there’s a vacancy in 2020.”
Though the majority leader’s policy reversal is outrageous in its flagrant partisanship, it isn’t exactly a shocking move. The self-described “Grim Reaper” of progressive policies relishes wielding his power to benefit Republican interests, particularly when it comes to the judiciary branch. After stymying Garland’s nomination and those of many other Obama nominees—only 28.6% of Obama’s judicial nominees were confirmed during the last two years of his presidency—McConnell has worked to confirm judges at a record pace under President Donald Trump. In addition to Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the number of Trump-nominated federal judges confirmed by the Senate is already in the triple digits, including a record-setting number of appeals court judges for this point in a presidency.
McConnell emphasized the importance of controlling the judiciary during his Tuesday luncheon, explaining that unlike legislation, “what can’t be undone is a life time appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of the judge is to follow the law.” “That’s the most important thing we’ve done in the country, which cannot be undone,” McConnell added. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Republican lawmaker is ready to sacrifice his pesky “principles” for yet another conservative Supreme Court seat, no matter how bad the optics of his about-face seem to be. So in the meantime: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had better keep planking.