Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Tuesday to fill a Supreme Court seat during a presidential election year, sparking accusations that he was flipping his position on Merrick Garland’s nomination.
“Oh we’d fill it,” McConnell said about a potential 2020 vacancy on the court. (RELATED: McConnell Promised To Fill An Election-Year SCOTUS Vacancy And The Left Is Freaking Out)
Media outlets took McConnell’s comments as a “reversal,” “hypocrisy,” and a “flip-flop,” noting that McConnell declined to vote on former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Garland in 2016 because there was an ongoing presidential election.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza: Mitch McConnell’s Outrageous Hypocrisy On A Supreme Court Vacancy
But McConnell offered a much more nuanced argument on several occasions – specifically, that SCOTUS nominations should not be pushed through in presidential election years when the president is of a different political party than the majority of the Senate.
McConnell on the Senate floor in February 2016:
“Some disagree and would rather the Senate simply push through yet another lifetime appointment from a president who’s on his way out the door.
Of course it’s within the president’s authority to nominate a successor even in this very rare circumstance — remember that the Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago — but we also know that Article II, Section II of the Constitution grants the Senate the right to withhold its consent, as it deems necessary.”
McConnell on March 1, 2016:
“You’ve heard all the talking points on both sides, but it is – does bear repeating that there hasn’t been a vacancy created in a presidential election year filled in 80 years. And you’d have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was in the White House to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential year was confirmed by the party opposite the occupant of the White House.
So this vacancy will not be filled this year. We will look forward to the American people deciding who they want to make this appointment through their own votes.”
McConnell again in March 2016:
“You have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was in the White House to find the last time when a vacancy was created in a presidential year, a Senate controlled about it party opposite the president confirmed.”
McConnell in 2017:
“You would have to go back to the Grover Cleveland administration in 1888 to find the last time a Supreme Court vacancy in the middle of a presidential election year was confirmed by the Senate of an opposite party. Joe Biden said in 1992, a presidential election year, had a vacancy existed, they would not have filled it.”