WASHINGTON ― Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday defended his decision not to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Democrats would have done the same thing if they’d controlled the Senate and a vacancy on the court had opened up during an election year.
“If the shoe had been on the other foot, they wouldn’t have filled a Republican president’s vacancy,” McConnell said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when asked if he had any regrets over the matter.
At least 14 Supreme Court justices were confirmed during an election year throughout U.S. history. Most recently, a Senate controlled by Democrats confirmed President Ronald Reagan’s nominee Anthony Kennedy in 1988 ― the final year of Reagan’s presidency. The example is not perfect, however: Kennedy was Reagan’s second choice after Democrats had rejected the nomination of Robert Bork a year earlier.
Several Democrats cited the blockade of Garland, a highly respected judge, in statements regarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who announced this week that she would vote to confirm Gorsuch, said her decision does not “diminish how disturbed I am by what Republicans did to Judge Garland.”
During a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday,” McConnell would not say whether Republicans would unilaterally change the Senate rules via what is known as the “nuclear option” in order to confirm Gorsuch.
“Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed,” he said. “The way in which that occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that “it looks like” Gorsuch would not receive enough votes to overcome a filibuster.
“When a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules ― you should change the nominee,” he said on on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”