Democrats are calling on Sen. Mitch McConnell to wait until after the midterm elections to consider President Trump’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday. McConnell famously delayed a hearing on President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, and Democrats in the Senate are trying to use that position against him now.
“Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016, not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, in remarks on the floor on Wednesday. “Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president’s nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now, as Leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then.”
Sen. Kamala Harris also called for the Senate to wait until after midterms to hold the confirmation vote and criticized President Trump’s list of potential SCOTUS nominees as “conservative ideologues, not mainstream jurists.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “Mitch McConnell should follow the Mitch McConnell rule. Let the American people have a say when women’s health and equal rights are on the line.”
But Sen. Richard Blumenthal initially struck a different tone from his Democratic colleagues, telling an MSNBC reporter that “the Senate should do nothing to artificially delay” the consideration of the next justice, and that President Trump should choose a centrist in the mold of Kennedy. He later backtracked on Twitter:
McConnell has shown zero indication that he’s bothered by accusations of hypocrisy or that he plans to yield in any way to Democratic demands to postpone the vote. He said on Wednesday that the Senate “stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump’s nominee to fill this vacancy. We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”
Democrats have little recourse to stop McConnell from ramming through Trump’s nominee, whenever he chooses to do so. Republicans abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees during the confirmation fight over Justice Neil Gorsuch.
There’s at least an outside chance that McConnell opts to delay the vote until after the midterms, as Democrats have demanded, but only if he sees an opportunity recreate his gambit from 2016, when the court vacancy helped motivate Republican voters to turn out for Donald Trump.