McConnell Maintains SCOTUS Decisions Line Up With Senate History

Oct 8, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is again defending his decision to deny hearings for former President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, arguing the action was “entirely consistent” with the history of the Senate. 

In a Sunday interview with CBS, the Kentucky senator pointed to 1880 as the last time a Senate controlled by a different party from the president confirmed a Supreme Court justice during a presidential election year. Monday, the Republican went further, suggesting if the roles had been reversed in 2016, Democrats would not have confirmed a Republican president’s appointee to the high court.

"You knew that if it had been a... Republican president and a Democratic Senate, they wouldn't have filled the vacancy," he said. 

McConnell and Face the Nation’s John Dickerson sparred over the veteran lawmaker's history lesson, with Dickerson pointing to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s selection of Justice William Brennan in 1956 – a presidential election year. While Brennan was a recess appointment, he was confirmed by a Democratic Senate the following year.

The Washington Post also points out the difficulty of citing precedent, given how few Supreme Court vacancies have occurred in presidential election years.