Mitch McConnell Defends Blocking Merrick Garland

October 7, 2018, 3:32 PM UTC

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended his decision to block former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland after pushing President Donald Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh through his confirmation process.

“You have to go back to 1880 to find last time a Senate controlled by a different party from the president confirmed a Supreme Court justice to a vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election,” McConnell said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning, turning to historical precedent.

Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016—10 months before the end of his second term. Garland wasn’t given a confirmation hearing or Senate vote.

Host John Dickerson pressed McConnell on his historical explanation, mentioning President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1956 recess appointment of William Brennan right before a presidential election. Brennan was confirmed the next year.

“I know the history of this, I’ve spent a lot of time on this throughout my career. What I did was entirely consistent with what the history of Senate has been in that situation going back to 1880,” McConnell replied.

McConnell also signaled on Fox News that he’d be open to putting a Trump nominee on the Supreme Court in 2020, at the end of Trump’s term—as opposed to his lame-duck opposition to Obama’s nominee.

“We’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020,” he said.