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McConnell: GOP-controlled Senate would block a Supreme Court nominee before 2024 election

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Monday that he would block a Supreme Court nominee in 2024 if Republicans regain control of the Senate after the 2022 midterm elections.

The Kentucky senator told conservative talk radio show host Hugh Hewitt that he would oppose a confirmation because, he says, it is not typical for a Senate of the opposite party of the president to confirm a nominee during an election year.

"In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election," McConnell said.

His statements are particularly relevant in light of the possible retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer, 82, has faced pressure from left-leaning politicians to step down, allowing President Joe Biden to possibly nominate a Black woman to the court.

A GOP-controlled Senate blocked a Supreme Court nominee by a Democratic president before. In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland to the court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier that year. But Republicans, led by McConnell, argued the nomination was too close to the 2016 presidential election.

At the time, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the committee would not hold hearings on Garland's confirmation.

Scalia's vacancy was eventually filled in April 2017 by Justice Neil Gorsuch, then-President Donald Trump's nominee. Garland was confirmed as attorney general in March of this year.

In 2020, Senate Republicans reversed their 2016 actions by confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court during an election year. A former U.S. Court of Appeals judge, Barrett replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

However, Scott Sloofman, staff director for the Senate Republican Communications Center, said that "Senate Republicans didn’t reverse their position when they voted to confirm Justice Barrett," citing the GOP control of both the Senate and the White House.

Trump filled three Supreme Court vacancies during his presidency, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority on the bench.

McConnell told Hewitt that Supreme Court vacancies have not been filled during an election year by a Senate of the opposite party of the president since the 1880s.

"What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president," he said.

McConnell went on to compliment Breyer on his stance against "court-packing," or expanding the court to 13 justices.

Senate Republicans largely oppose increasing the number of justices on the bench. And though progressive Democrats introduced a bill in April to expand the Supreme Court, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not bring it to the floor for a vote.

"I do want to give him a shoutout, though, because he joined what Justice Ginsburg said in 2019, that nine is the right number for the Supreme Court. And I admire him for that," McConnell said of Breyer. "I think even the liberal justices on the Supreme Court have made it clear that court packing is a terrible idea."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitch McConnell: would block a Biden Supreme Court nominee in 2024

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