Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Sunday tried to shut down Beltway musings that President Obama’s latest pick for the Supreme Court could still find a way to be confirmed in the lame duck session if Hillary Clinton wins the election.
When asked whether he would completely rule out a “lame duck scenario” for Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, McConnell told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press": "We're not going to be confirming a judge to the Supreme Court under this president.”
When pushed on the possibility that someone more liberal than Garland could be nominated in 2017 if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, McConnell responded, “It'd be hard to be more liberal than Merrick Garland, but it's my hope that she will not be making the appointment.”
The Kentucky senator said that while he doesn’t want to move the court left, the fact that the Senate will not consider Garland isn’t about his judicial record.
"It's not the person. It's the principle. Who ought to make this lifetime appointment? It's the next president, not this one," McConnell said.
Minority Leader Harry Reid meanwhile expressed doubt that McConnell would be able to hold his ranks together and keep Garland from getting considered in the Senate.
"I don't know why McConnell has done this to his senators. He's marching these men, women over a cliff. I don't think they're going to go," Reid told Chuck Todd. Reid said he told Garland that there will be a "breakthrough."
“In addition to the people agreeing to meet, we have Republican senators and a veteran senator who said, 'Well maybe what we should do is do it in a lame duck.' Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, others have said that. But if they're going to do it in lame duck, do it now,” Reid proclaimed.
Both McConnell and Reid dismissed their own past comments about whether Supreme Court nominees should be considered during a president’s last year. Reid’s response to the idea that this is all political calculation: "This is not a tit-for-tat. This is Republicans wanting to do everything they can to hurt President Obama."
And this is how McConnell responded to his own past statements about nominations: "Nobody's been entirely consistent. So let's just look at the history of it. It hasn't happened in 80 years, and it won't happen this year."
McConnell also refused to take sides on the Republican side of the presidential race. When asked if he was “comfortable” with Donald Trump being the GOP’s standard bearer, McConnell demurred, “I'm going to support the nominee. I've got an obligation to my colleagues and to my party to support the nominee and I fully intend to do that.”
But he did leave his Senate colleagues some wiggle room on whether they should run towards or away from Trump if he ends up being the nominee.
"I think we've got a bunch of Senate races in purple states that are very competitive," McConnell said. "And each of those races will be crafted very differently to try to appeal to the people in New Hampshire or Pennsylvania or Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois. Every one of those races are going to be individual, standalone contests with people who we think have a great chance of winning in November. ... I think every campaign will have a different strategy to appeal to different kind of voters that we have in different parts of the country."