Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, walks toward his office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

McConnell Signals Senate Open to Trump Nominee Vote in 2020

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that a Republican Senate may be prepared to take up a nomination to the Supreme Court made by President Donald Trump in 2020, the next presidential election year.

McConnell blocked Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, arguing at the time that voters should have a say in the matter in that year’s election. Garland wasn’t granted a hearing or a vote.

McConnell Signals Senate Open to Trump Nominee Vote in 2020

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether the same logic would apply in 2020, McConnell said “we’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020.”

The Kentucky senator then said that the tradition in the Senate since 1880 has been that a vacancy is not filled by a president in an election year -- if the Senate is controlled by the opposing party.

That appears to indicate the Garland rationale wouldn’t apply if a Republican president has a Republican Senate majority.

McConnell’s comments contrast with those of South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who could become Senate Judiciary Committee chairman next year if his party maintains control of the chamber. On Wednesday, he told a Washington audience at the Atlantic Festival that “if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election.”

Proudest Moment

McConnell also said Saturday’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is his proudest moment as a senator.

“We stood up to the mob,” he said. “This has been an extraordinarily productive Congress.”

In a separate appearance on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” the majority leader predicted that the anti-Kavanaugh protests will backfire by energizing the Republican base in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, in which the GOP is looking to hang on to its majorities in the House and Senate.

A new CBS poll released on Sunday suggested the court battle may have hurt Democratic Senate hopes in states like Texas and Tennessee, where more voters wanted the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh than not.

McConnell chuckled on CBS when asked whether Republicans will not campaign against West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin because he voted for Kavanaugh -- the only Democrat to do so.

‘Still a Democrat’

“Manchin is still a Democrat and we’re trying to hold onto our majority,” he said.

McConnell also indicated he wouldn’t try to punish Alaskan Republican Lisa Murkowski for her vote against Kavanaugh, saying she is a member of his conference in good standing. Trump, at a rally in Kansas on Saturday, called Murkowski’s vote “disgraceful.”

McConnell predicted that the House and Senate will soon wrap up talks over a bill creating a new process for congressional employees to make sexual harassment and assault allegations against lawmakers.

“That is something I know will get done before the end of the year,” he said on CBS.

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