Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, and minority leader threatened on Monday to block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Biden in 2024 if Republicans regain control of the Senate next year.
“It’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell told syndicated conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“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,” he added. “So I think it’s highly unlikely.”
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) June 14, 2021
McConnell could return as majority leader if Republicans regain control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. While serving as majority leader, McConnell blocked Democratic former President Barack Obama from filling a vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, saying it would be improper to confirm a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year.
His position is no surprise since it is in line with his refusal in 2016 to consider President Barack Obama’s high court nomination of Merrick B. Garland, now the attorney general, saying it was too close to the presidential election even though the vacancy occurred in February.
As for what would happen if a seat became open in 2023 and Republicans controlled the Senate, Mr. McConnell did not declare that he would prevent Mr. Biden from advancing a nominee but left the door open to the possibility. “Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” said Mr. McConnell.
Stonewalling a nominee in the year before a presidential election would amount to a significant escalation in the judicial confirmation wars. Mr. McConnell’s pronouncements will likely amplify calls from progressive activists for Justice Stephen G. Breyer to retire while Democrats still hold the Senate and can move through a successor. Justice Breyer, 82, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, has resisted calls to step aside. Justices often time their retirements to the end of the court’s term, which comes in two weeks.
In 2020, Chuck Schumer was not amused. “Let the record show that tonight, the Republican Senate majority decided to thwart the will of the people and confirm a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election, after a more than 60 million Americans have voted,” then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said when Barrett was nominated.