Democrats are livid after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stated that Republicans would confirm a new Supreme Court justice in 2020 if given the chance, despite refusing to do so when Barack Obama was president during the last presidential election.
McConnell made the comments during a speech in his home state Tuesday afternoon. Asked what Republicans would do if there was a vacancy on the court in 2020, he replied, “Uh, we’d fill it.” In 2016, McConnell and his fellow Republicans chose not to vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, claiming that the next president should get to make that decision.
As a result, President Trump later successfully nominated the conservative Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Garland is widely considered more centrist.
Democratic presidential candidates quickly took the opportunity to accuse McConnell of hypocrisy.
“We’ve known all along how hypocritical the @senatemajldr is,” said Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. “But his shamlessness at stealing a Supreme Court seat is appalling.”
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee also chimed in, claiming McConnell’s remark was evidence that he “is not a man on the verge of an epiphany to work with Democrats.”
Other high-profile Democrats took shots at McConnell as well. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called him a “hypocrite” in a Twitter thread, and said, “Anyone who believes he’d ever allow confirmation of a Dem President’s nominee for SCOTUS is fooling themselves.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said McConnell had admitted that the GOP “stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama” when they reffused to hold a hearing for Garland.
But McConnell’s communications director pushed back agains the criticism, explaining why McConnell’s position is different now than it was in 2016. He argued that while in 2020 the White House and Senate will be controlled by the same party, that was not the case during President Obama’s last year in office.
Democrats lamented the GOP’s decision to stall in 2016, which ended up giving President Trump the ability to place two conservative justices on the Supreme Court during his first term in office. Conservative justices now have a 5-4 majority over liberals, at a time when Democrats are worried that a string of restrictive abortion laws could result in the overruling of Roe v. Wade.
As recent weeks have shown, however, justices can be unpredictable, with each of Trump’s picks — Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — siding with their liberal colleagues in close decisions.