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McConnell leaves door open for SCOTUS nominee in 2020

The Senate Majority Leader won't rule out confirming a nominee if there's a vacancy during an election year—despite blocking President Obama's nominee in 2016.

Posted: Oct 9, 2018 8:47 AM
Updated: Oct 9, 2018 9:04 AM

Following months of a passionate and polarizing fight from both parties over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Monday that "the country will be just fine."

"Look, you know we go through these periods," the Kentucky Republican said at a home-state news conference, when asked about the confirmation process, which culminated Saturday when the Senate voted 50-48 to confirm President Donald Trump's nominee. "We've had big, big fights over other things and the country will be just fine."

McConnell has long made reshaping the federal judiciary his number one priority and on Monday he called his focus the "single most important thing I've been involved in my career."

Together with Trump, McConnell has made an imprint on the court. Since Trump's inauguration, the Republicans have ushered two justices onto the Supreme Court, 26 judges onto the Federal Court of Appeals and 41 to US District Courts throughout the country, according to statistics from the Federal Judicial Center and the White House.

Democrats have sharply criticized McConnell for his treatment of then-President Barack Obama nominee, Merrick Garland, who was nominated to fill a seat after Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in February 2016. Garland never got a vote nor a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, following the decision McConnell made at the time that the 2016 presidential election should determine the next Supreme Court nominee. The seat sat vacant until Trump's first Supreme Court nominee -- Neil Gorsuch -- was confirmed in April 2017.

On Sunday, McConnell faced backlash after television interviews where he left the door open to confirming another Trump appointee in the run-up to the 2020 election -- ignoring the precedents he had cited for Garland.

On Monday the majority leader repeated his defense he made over the weekend, saying that "there's no chance that an opposition party in control of the Senate is going to fill a Supreme Court vacancy occurring in the middle a presidential election year, and that's why it hasn't happened since the 1880s."

McConnell and Senate Republicans turned the Supreme Court into a focus of the campaign trail throughout the 2016 election season, and he anticipates that it will be a major issue in November's elections. McConnell expects that Kavanaugh's confirmation will prove to be a boon to the GOP in the midterms.

Speaking to the press in Kentucky, he cited a polling uptick in a tight Tennessee Senate race and called the controversial confirmation fight an "adrenaline shot."

"What I think this has done for us is provide the kind of adrenaline shot that we had not been able to figure out how to achieve in any other way," McConnell said.

McConnell's comments come just weeks before a midterm election that could change the balance of power in both the Senate and the House.

"We think there is some evidence ... that this is going to be very helpful to us next month," McConnell said.

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