The Kentucky senator has hidden behind the argument that the Senate and the presidency being controlled by the opposite party would give the former the right to gum up the works for almost two full years - should a Supreme Court vacancy arise.
In a Monday interview on "The Hugh Hewitt Show", Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said if he were majority leader in 2024, he would likely block President Joe Biden from filling a Supreme Court seat if one opens up. In 2016, McConnell refused to grant a hearing to Barack Obama nominee Merrick Garland, arguing-incorrectly, according to the Brookings Institution-that it was a longstanding tradition not to fill a vacancy during a presidential election year.
"I think 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 said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on June 14 when asked about the possibility. That enabled Donald Trump, the victor of the November 2016 election, to appoint conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017.
Last year, Democrats sharply criticized McConnell and then-President Donald Trump when he nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.
McConnell signaled that a Biden nominee could have problems even outside an election year.
McConnell and the Senate Republicans have defended their actions pointing out that in 2016 party control of the White House and Senate was split, whereas in 2020, the same party, the Republicans, controlled both.
On the show, McConnell said holding open Scalia's seat - so the late justice was eventually replaced by Trump with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch - was 'the single most consequential thing I've done in my time as majority leader of the Senate'.
'I'll be keeping an eye on that, hopefully we won't have to intervene, but if we do, we will, ' the minority leader added. McConnell made confirmation of Trump's conservative judicial nominees a high priority. The size of the top court was changed several times between the founding of the republic and the Civil War in the mid-19th century. He's done it before, and he'll do it again.
Some Democrats have proposed expanding the number of justices in order to end the Supreme Court's conservative majority.
There is now a movement on the left calling for 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer to retire soon so that President Joe Biden can select his replacement, just as there was a movement under President Obama for liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire. Jackson, among the most prominent Black women in the federal judiciary, is considered a potential Supreme Court pick for Biden.
Democrats now have a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate-with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tie-breaker.