Justice Stephen Breyer hasn’t even left the bench yet, but Mitch McConnell, who has been called out for his hypocrisy in his practice of making up new rules for confirming SCOTUS picks depending on who’s doing the picking, is already making up new rules for how President Joe Biden should make the choice.
As NPR reported at the time, McConnell, who was then Senate Majority Leader, was open about his intention to prevent Barack Obama from seating a SCOTUS Justice in 2016. He claimed it was about the vacancy occurring in an election year, and that to allow Obama to seat a justice would be denying the people a voice in the seat.
In 2020, when Donald Trump had the opportunity to seat one more Justice in the days before the election, McConnell changed his tune, assuring the public that his previous ‘rule’ about election years only applied when the majority party in the Senate was not the same party as the President — in other words, to seat a Trump nominee 8 days before the election would be fine, because Republicans currently held a Senate majority.
So, what’s the story now that it’s Joe Biden, a Democrat, and the House has a Democratic majority, and the Senate is split evenly with a Democratic Vice President as tiebreaker?
Well, there’s a new rule, apparently: when the Senate is split 50-50, McConnell asserts, the president should take that as a mandate to “rule from the middle” and should not pick a more liberal nominee.
“Looking ahead — the American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50. To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America. The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left.”
However, McConnell no longer has the power to enforce that himself, as the New York Times explains.
A series of changes over the past decade, by both parties, mean that the filibuster doesn’t apply to seating a Supreme Court nominee — Biden’s pick, whoever that may be, can be seated with a simple majority, as long as Democrats hold together. Of course, there are a few whose support is in question — but McConnell, at least, doesn’t have the power himself to prevent a nominee from going through.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com