Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened up about his career in a recent interview, calling the decision to block the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court “the most consequential decision” of his time in public life.
McConnell made the comments in an interview with Kentucky Today while discussing how confirming conservative judges at all levels of the federal judiciary tops his list of legislative priorities:
“I believe that’s the most important thing we’re doing. You’ve heard me say before that I thought the decision I made not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy when Justice Scalia died was the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire public career. The things that will last the longest time, those are my top priorities.”
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill the vacancy on March 16, 2016. When the 114th Congress ended 293 days later, Garland’s nomination expired without a single hearing.
With Scalia having long been viewed as one of the most reliably conservative justices on the court, the confirmation of a liberal judge to replace him could have shifted the ideological balance of the court to the left. McConnell blocked Garland’s nomination on the grounds that the vacancy opened during an election year, saying that “the American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice.”
“Let’s let the American people decide,” McConnell said, explaining his position soon after Garland’s nomination. “The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”
Holding true to his word, Garland would hang in the wind for nearly 10 months without any steps being taken to confirm him. President Donald Trump then took office on January 20, 2017, nominated conservative Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on January 31, and the Senate moved to confirm him within Trump’s first 100 days in office.