Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that should Republicans regain control of the Senate after the 2022 midterms, they would not confirm Supreme Court nominee if a vacancy were to become available.
“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 to radio host Hugh Hewitt.
In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland to the court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier that year. But Republicans, led by McConnell, argued the nomination was too close to the 2016 presidential election.
At the time, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the committee would not hold hearings on Garland’s confirmation.
In 2020, Senate Republicans reversed their 2016 actions by confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court during an election year. A former U.S. Court of Appeals judge, Barrett replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
McConnell told Hewitt that Supreme Court vacancies had not been filled during an election year by a Senate of the opposite party of the president since the 1880s.
“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” he said.
There are currently no vacancies on the Supreme Court. Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, has faced pressure from left-leaning politicians to step down, allowing President Joe Biden to possibly nominate a Black woman to the court.
Republicans are fighting to gain control of the Senate.
If Republicans were to regain control of the Senate next year, they would have leverage on Biden nominees for the final two years of his presidency.