Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is signaling that he is ready and prepared to move another Supreme Court nominee from President Trump through Senate confirmation – including during the the 2020 presidential election season, if another seat were to become available then.
“We’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020,” McConnell said in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."
McConnell famously blocked a Senate vote on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination Merrick Garland two years ago, on the grounds that it was a presidential election year.
When asked Sunday whether moving a Trump nominee in 2020 would break the precedent he himself set in 2016, McConnell argued that a Senate case in 1880 justified blocking a nominee in the specific situation in which the Senate is controlled by the party opposing the president.
Trump has boasted that he may have the opportunity to nominate several more justices. Court-watchers are closely tuned in, in particular, to the health of liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old. The second oldest justice, Stephen Breyer, also generally sides with liberals on the court.
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Trump has worked with outside conservative groups to develop a list of potential selections for the high court and would be prepared to pick another Republican-approved nominee, should an opening come up.
Conservatives have focused especially on Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor Trump appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and who reportedly was under consideration for the seat Brett Kavanaugh ultimately took. Thomas Hardiman, a conservative George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, also was a runner-up to Kavanaugh and has been vetted.
[Opinion: Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will radicalize the Democratic Party]
McConnell also insisted Sunday that the divide between the parties in Congress is the fault of Democrats for trying to destroy a man’s career and reputation because they opposed his nomination for partisan reasons.
“We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him,” McConnell said. “We simply followed the tradition of America.”
Saturday’s Senate vote, 50-48, to confirm Kavanaugh was the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote to confirm a justice since 1881. Every Democrat, except Sen. Joe Manchin, W.Va., voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday evening in a private ceremony.
McConnell praised the confirmation, claiming that the fight energized Republican voters for the 2018 midterm elections. He also said GOP senators during the confrontational nomination process helped to reestablish the “presumption of innocence” in confirmation hearings.
Over the weekend, McConnell praised his Republican colleagues for standing up to the "mob" of Kavanaugh opponents and protesters.