On the heels of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he’ll be retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of July, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement that proclaims, “The Senate will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”
“The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump’s nominee to fill this vacancy,” the statement continues. “We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall. As in the case of Justice Gorsuch, Senators will have the opportunity to meet with President Trump’s nominee, examine his or her qualifications, and debate the nomination.”
McConnell’s eagerness to hold hearings on Trump’s second SCOTUS nominee stands in contrast to how he handled things in 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of that year. McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings for then-President Obama’s choice to replace him, Merrick Garland — his argument being that the country was too close to an election at that time to consider a SCOTUS nominee.
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) February 14, 2016
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) March 1, 2016
.@VP – "once the political season is under way…action on a Supreme Court nom. must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) March 2, 2016
The next justice could dramatically change the direction of #SCOTUS for decades. The American people deserve a voice in that conversation.
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) March 15, 2016
— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) March 16, 2016
McConnell ended up holding the seat open for more than a year, until after Trump won the election and Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to take Scalia’s place.
Of course, we are closer to an election that could tilt the balance of the U.S. Senate than we were when Obama nominated Garland to succeed Scalia. But because the president is now a Republican, McConnell is signing a very different tune than he was two years ago.
McConnell’s lack of principle was also on display on Tuesday, when he gloated over news that the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority upheld President Trump’s Muslim ban in a 5-4 decision, despite the fact that he once criticized the policy, saying “we don’t have religious tests in this country.”
During a press availability shortly after news of Kennedy’s retirement broke on Tuesday, a reporter asked Trump if he “would consider holding that spot open until the makeup of Congress is determined come November.”
“You want to go as quickly as possible,” Trump replied.