McConnell had declined to hold any hearings on Garland after he was nominated in March 2016 following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate leader claimed the vacancy shouldn’t be filled in the months leading up to a presidential election.
But on Sunday, McConnell offered a revised version of his initial reasoning and refused to say he wouldn’t confirm a potential Supreme Court nominee from President Donald Trump in 2020.
While discussing Brett Kavanaugh’s Saturday confirmation to the Supreme Court, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked McConnell to respond to a clip of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slamming the Kentucky lawmaker’s handling of the Garland nomination.
“We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We simply followed the tradition in America, which is that if you have … a Senate of a different party than the president you don’t fill a vacancy created in a presidential year. That went all the way back to 1888.”
Wallace, apparently picking up on McConnell’s inconsistent reasoning for blocking Garland, pressed him on his mention of party difference.
“When you blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination from President Obama, you basically said that we don’t do this in a presidential election year, and that we wait until the election and then whoever the people choose, they get to pick the Supreme Court nominee,” Wallace said. “But what you just said now was it’s a question of whether or not the party in control of the Senate is different than the president.”
“If Donald Trump were to name somebody in the final year of his first term in 2020, are you saying that you would go ahead with that nomination?” he asked McConnell.
But McConnell danced around the inquiry, pointing again to the Senate’s voting record in the 1880s. When Wallace tried to ask the question again, McConnell interrupted him: “The answer to your question is we’ll see whether there’s a vacancy in 2020.”
The Republican senator’s remarks Sunday echoed his response to reporters a day earlier when asked a similar question about a potential 2020 Supreme Court nominee.
“We’ll see what it looks like in 2020,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s latest ― and convenient ― reason for blocking Garland leaves wiggle room for Trump to potentially nominate another Supreme Court justice in 2020 if an opening occurs then, despite the senator’s rejection of Garland during the 2016 presidential election year.
Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice hours after the Senate narrowly confirmed him, 50-48. His confirmation likely ushers in a fundamentally more conservative tilt on the nation’s highest court. He is the second Supreme Court justice appointed under Trump. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017 to the same seat that McConnell held open.