WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Monday that if Republicans were to win back the majority next year, he wouldn’t allow President Joe Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the 2024 election cycle — and he may not even allow a hearing in 2023 if a seat needed to be filled then.
In an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell was asked if he would give a Biden Supreme Court nominee “a fair shot at a hearing” if the person is “not a radical, but a normal mainstream mainstream liberal” if he became majority leader again.
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell said about the possibility of a 2023 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the third year of Biden’s presidency.
Asked if he would fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 with a Biden nominee, McConnell suggested he would follow the rule he used in 2016 when he blocked then-President Barack Obama’s high court nominee, Merrick Garland, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death because it was an election year.
“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 said Monday about the possibility of confirming a Biden nominee in 2024.
McConnell added that Democrats would employ the same rule if they held the Senate majority and a Republican president nominated a prospective justice in an election year.
“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” he said, referring to Republicans' decision to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett last year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The GOP-controlled Senate at the time confirmed Barrett last October just days ahead of the presidential election that Biden won.
Her confirmation cemented a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. Former President Donald Trump was also able to get Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed during his presidency with the help of Senate Republicans. There have been calls by some progressives for Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the three liberal justices, to retire so that Biden can fill the seat with a younger judge.
Meanwhile, Biden announced the creation of a commission in April that would conduct a 180-day study that would assess the effect of expanding the size of the court from its nine members, a change that more liberal lawmakers have rallied around over the last year.