Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said during an interview on Monday that if Republicans win back the Senate majority in 2022, it’s “highly unlikely” he would allow President Joe Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the 2024 election cycle.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” the Kentucky Republican senator told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
McConnell also acknowledged Justice Stephen Breyer’s view on the controversial issue of packing the Supreme Court.
“I do want to give him a shout-out, though, because he joined what Justice Ginsburg said in 2019 that nine is the right number for the Supreme Court. And I admire him for that,” McConnell said.
“I think even the liberal justices on the Supreme Court have made it clear that court packing is a terrible idea,” he added.
McConnell pointed out that if a vacancy were to arise in 2024, and Republicans controlled the Senate at the time, the situation would be different from 2020, when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the court.
“I think it’s highly unlikely,” McConnell said, referring to the possibility of a Republican-controlled Senate confirming a justice during the 2024 election cycle. “I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”
He added, “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
Barrett’s addition to the Supreme Court in 2020 created a six-to-three conservative majority. Some Democrats have encouraged 82-year-old Breyer to retire while the Biden administration is in power so that a liberal justice can take his place.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday she’s “inclined to say yes” when asked whether Breyer should retire.
The progressive lawmaker made the remarks during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“You know, I — it’s something that I’d think about but I, I would probably lean towards yes. But yes, you’re asking me this question so I’ve just, I would give more thought to it, but, but I’m inclined to say yes,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The congresswoman agreed with New York Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones, who called on Breyer to retire in April, Fox News reported. “I believe Rep. Jones has a point,” she said.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn blasted the Democratic congresswoman in a tweet on Monday.
“Even the Supreme Court isn’t safe from Democrats’ cancel culture,” she wrote.
Even the Supreme Court isn’t safe from Democrats’ cancel culture.https://t.co/mEqsygI7oQ
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) June 14, 2021
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, University of Colorado Boulder law professor Paul Campos, in a March 15 Op-Ed for The New York Times, contended that “Breyer should retire right now.”
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was widely, and deservedly, criticized for her refusal to retire from the Supreme Court at a time when a Democratic president could have chosen her replacement,” Campos wrote.
“The evident indifference on the part of Democrats regarding the failure of Justice Breyer, 82, to announce his retirement is apparently a product of the assumption that he will do so at some point during the current Congress and that therefore whether he does so anytime soon is not particularly important,” the professor added.
“This is a grave mistake.”
Campos went on to point out the current 50-50 split in the Senate — meaning the balance of power could shift during the session at any moment, due to the death or departure of a Democratic senator for serious illness or other reasons.