(CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left open the possibility of confirming a Supreme Court nominee in 2020 if Republicans still control the chamber and there’s a vacancy on the court, marking a shift over how he treated then-President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016.
Speaking to both Fox News and CBS News on Sunday, McConnell would not rule out seeking to confirm a nominee if there is a Supreme Court vacancy in the final year of President Donald Trump’s first term in 2020, assuming the GOP holds onto the Senate in this November’s midterms. McConnell instead seemed to suggest that presidents don’t get Supreme Court nominees confirmed in a presidential election year — if the Senate is controlled by the opposite political party.
“You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a Senate controlled by a party different from the president filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created in the middle of a presidential election year,” McConnell said on Fox News. “That’s been the history,”
Asked directly if he would allow a nominee to be confirmed in 2020, McConnell repeatedly sidestepped the question.
“The answer to your question is we will see if there’s a vacancy in 2020,” he said.
The nomination of Merrick Garland
During the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland by Obama in 2016, Republicans who controlled the Senate argued that the next president should be the one to choose who the next nominee would be for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by death of Antonin Scalia. At the time, Republicans did not focus their arguments on the party that controls the Senate as they took the unprecedented move to deny Garland any hearings or votes, instead pointing to the proximity to the elections.
On Sunday, McConnell also made the case that it matters which party controls the Senate.
“What I did was entirely consistent with what the history of the Senate has been in that situation going back to 1880,” McConnell said on CBS News, defending his decision to block Garland’s nomination.