The Norm Respecters never sleep.
Just two years after Mitch McConnell led the Republican blockade against Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court on the bullshit basis of the selection coming from a lame-duck president, the Senate Majority Leader is now trying to say that those rules won’t apply if a seat on the court opens up in Donald Trump’s final year (knock on wood) in the White House.
During an interview that aired Sunday, Chris Wallace of Fox News pressed McConnell on whether he would be willing to overlook his supposedly principled stand against Garland’s nomination should a Supreme Court seat come into play during the 2020 race. After some back-and-forth, McConnell finally showed his hand completely, telling Wallace that, actually, his inane rule is only applicable if the Senate is controlled by the opposing party of the sitting president.
So, as long as Senate Republicans weather the upcoming midterms and maintain their slim majority, they would absolutely push through a nominee in 2020, if the opportunity presents itself, he said in the interview:
WALLACE: So, if you can answer my direct question. Are you saying that if Donald Trump —
MCCONNELL: The answer to your question is, we’ll see if there’s a vacancy in 2020.
WALLACE: But you’re not ruling out the possibility since you’re the Republican majority leader and there’s a Republican president that you would go for and push the nomination of a Trump nominee in the election year.
MCCONNELL: What I’m telling you is, the history is, you have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a Senate controlled party different from the president filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created in the middle of a presidential election year. That’s been the history.
What McConnell is referencing is the 1880 nomination of William Woods by Republican Rutherfod Hayes—Woods was confirmed 39–8 by a heavily Democratic Senate, though that confirmation only came when his nomination occurred in December, after the elections. McConnell’s presentation of history was later challenged by CBS’ John Dickerson during an interview on Face The Nation, where Dickerson cited the 1956 nomination of William Brennan by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower as a counter-example. While Brennan wasn’t confirmed until after the election, Dickerson’s larger point still stands—in the case of Garland, McConnell fought against the vote for confirmation even after the elections passed.
Seeing as 1) Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are 80-plus years old; 2) the Republicans very may well survive the midterms; and 3) McConnell is a shameless, craven man, the smart money in this hellish scenario is that either RBG or Breyer will bow out in the next two years and be replaced by a middle-aged Federalist Society husk that will push the nation’s highest court even further the right.
I, for one, look forward to returning to a world where I have to present my property deed at the polls.