McConnell: Court fight would divide the nation

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 07:35:41-05

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is the majority leader of the United States Senate.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a brilliant jurist and a champion of the Constitution. His death leaves a hole in American life and law that will be difficult to fill.

As I stated following his passing, the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next justice. Therefore, the Senate should not consider any nominee until after the election, when the people have spoken, and we have a new president.

Sen. McConnell

The voting process has already begun. Over the next few weeks, voters in more than a dozen states, including Kentucky, will have their say. Certainly the makeup of the Supreme Court will be reflected in their ballots. Americans should not be denied this opportunity to shape the direction of the court.

Lame Duck President

Some Democrats disagree. They think the Senate should simply roll over and affirm a lifetime appointment from a lame duck president who is on his way out the door.

History and precedent are not on their side. The Senate has not filled a Supreme Court vacancy that arose in a presidential election year in over 80 years. And it has been almost 130 years since the Senate confirmed a nomination in such circumstances when the president and the Senate majority were of different political parties, as is the case today.

Senate Democrats may call for a rushed confirmation now. But they proposed a different course when a Republican president was in the White House.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting, argued in 2007 that his majority party should block virtually any nominee put forward by President George W. Bush with 18 months to go in the president’s term.

Joe Biden's Words

Vice President Joe Biden served in the Senate for more than 30 years. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he admonished then-President George H.W. Bush not to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that might occur during an election year. He further suggested that the Senate not hold confirmation hearings were the president to name someone.

Any nominee named in an election year, Biden cautioned, would become a victim of a power struggle for control of the Court. He warned: “Action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”

I couldn’t agree more. A confirmation battle now would needlessly divide the nation. Let’s allow the American people to speak, and to chart the path forward for the Court and for our country.