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Mitch McConnell Responds To Joe Biden Filling Supreme Court Vacancy

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell angered Democrats and the far left in 2016 when he refused to allow then-U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court to be considered, let alone voted on.

Soon after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, then-President Barack Obama quickly nominated Garland, but the Kentucky Republican Senate leader said that any nominee would be pointless because he wasn’t going to allow it to proceed.

It was a decision that McConnell would justify thusly, according to NPR:

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“Of course,” said McConnell, “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction. It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent.”

“One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ “

NPR, at the time, said McConnell’s action was “unprecedented,” which wasn’t true; the Senate has, in the past, often passed on judicial nominations. Constitutional experts would note at the time that judicial nominees are not automatically guaranteed a hearing by the Senate, which is charged with giving advice and, more importantly, consent to such nominees.

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That includes Supreme Court nominees as well, and while Obama and Democrats attempted to pressure McConnell, he didn’t relent.

And now, as the prospect of Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement draws near, there has been new speculation about President Joe Biden getting to nominate a replacement at some point. But McConnell is prepared to use the evenly divided Senate to block any of his nominees as well.

The Guardian reports:

At the end of a week in which Mitch McConnell refused to rule out blocking a Joe Biden supreme court pick if Republicans take the Senate next year, an expert said the court may have reached a “turning point” regarding public perception of its politicization and need for reform.

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In an interview with Politico, the Senate minority leader was asked if he would “mount a blockade” should a vacancy arise with Republicans holding the Senate and Democrats the White House.

McConnell was not alone. The 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter saying they had no intention of consenting to any nominee from Obama. No proceedings of any kind were held on Garland’s appointment.

“Cross those bridges when I get there, we are focusing on 22,” McConnell told Politico, adding that he believes it’ll be “highly unlikely” he’ll allow a Supreme Court nom from Biden to proceed in 2024, the next presidential election year.

In fact, McConnell may even have a majority of the American people on his side, if a new survey is an indicator.

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“Americans’ opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court have worsened, with 40%, down from 49% in July, saying they approve of the job the high court is doing. This represents, by two percentage points, a new low in Gallup’s trend, which dates back to 2000. The poll was conducted shortly after the Supreme Court declined to block a controversial Texas abortion law. In August, the court similarly allowed college vaccine mandates to proceed and rejected a Biden administration attempt to extend a federal moratorium on evictions during the pandemic,” Gallup reported.

For his part, Breyer has said he has contemplated retirement but he has yet to make a formal announcement. But the Democrat Party’s far-left progressive faction has been pushing for him to do just that so Biden can name someone to the high court in the mold of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, whom Obama put on the bench.

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