History could end up repeating itself if Republicans win back control of the Senate and President Biden has a Supreme Court vacancy to fill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt Monday that if he becomes majority leader again, the Senate will block any Supreme Court pick from Biden in 2024 and possibly even in 2023, the Hill reports. In 2016, McConnell refused to grant a hearing to Barack Obama nominee Merrick Garland, arguing—incorrectly, according to the Brookings Institution—that it was a longstanding tradition not to fill a vacancy during a presidential election year. When the Senate went on to confirm Donald Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 closer to an election than any nominee in US history, McConnell said the "tradition" only applied to nominees from the party that didn't control the Senate.
"I don't think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election," McConnell told Hewitt. Asked if Democrats would get a "fair hearing" for a "normal, mainstream liberal" if there is a court vacancy in 2023, McConnell said, "Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens.” He described blocking the Garland nomination as the "single most consequential thing" he accomplished in his six years as majority leader. Control of the Senate will be determined in next year's midterm elections, and McConnell's latest remarks will increase pressure on 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court's three remaining liberal justices, to retire while Democrats can be sure of confirming a successor chosen by Biden, Forbes notes. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)