Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office is pushing back hard on the accusation from Democrats and the media that he is being a “hypocrite” about Supreme Court nominees in an election year, taking the oh-so-radical step of pointing out what the man actually said.
As Joe Cunningham wrote this morning, McConnell is less of a hypocrite than a “political animal” and “super villain,” who has made his intentions clear and developed a mastery of the political process in order to achieve his goals. Love him or hate him, he’s been willing to take the “amazing risk” of refusing to consider former President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland and he’s not even a tiny bit apologetic about it, or about his intention to move forward if President Donald Trump should have the opportunity to nominate another Justice to America’s highest court before the 2020 elections.
McConnell was asked, "Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?"
The leader took a long sip of his drink before announcing with a smile, "Oh, we'd fill it," triggering loud laughter from the audience. https://t.co/gMyqqJpY6r
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 28, 2019
Predictably, liberals and many members of the media are gnashing their teeth over McConnell’s alleged “hypocrisy.” “He wouldn’t consider Garland during an election year, and this is an election year, how dare he?!”
Except that is not what McConnell said.
This morning, McConnell’s office sent out a long list of actual quotes, including links, of what McConnell actually said on the topic.
Scott Sloofman, the Staff Director for the Senate Republican Communications Center, sent out the email noting those criticizing McConnell were wrong, failing to put his comments “in their proper context”:
The Leader has noted on multiple occasions that not since the 1880s has a “vacancy created in a presidential year” been “confirmed by the party opposite the occupant of the White House.” His comments in Paducah yesterday simply repeated this. If there is a vacancy next year, because the White House and the Senate are the same party, we would vote to fill the slot.
Let’s repeat that again: Not since the 1880s has a SCOTUS vacancy created in a presidential election year been confirmed by the party opposite the occupant of the White House.
In 2016, Obama, a Democrat, was in the White House, and the Republicans controlled the Senate. This time around, Republicans control both. It’s not the same situation. Then, the Senate’s party in power was opposite the White House. Now, they’re the same.
Our system of government was created with these power dynamics between the branches as an integral part of its structure. Democrats may not like what McConnell is doing, but there’s nothing illegal, improper, or even hypocritical about it.
From McConnell’s office, the list of quotes and links:
Leader McConnell on the Senate floor:
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
Here is the Leader’s comments at stakeout on March 1, 2016:
LEADER McCONNELL: “We met for about an hour. We spent roughly half of the time discussing the Supreme Court. Senator Grassley and I made it clear that we don’t intend to take up a nominee or to have a hearing. And it was a good opportunity to reiterate our view that this appointment should be made by the next president.
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.”
And here is the Leader saying the exact same thing to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday 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.”
In 2017, on CNN’s State of the Union:
“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.”
And in 2018, also on Fox News Sunday:
“Well, I understand your question of what I told you is what the history of the Senate has been. You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year on the Supreme Court was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the president. That’s the history.”
Finally, here is the Leader’s comments in Paducah yesterday:
McConnell spoke before the Paducah Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning. During the question and answer portion, he was asked what he would do if a Supreme Court justice died next year. “We’d fill it,” he said.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.