Mitch McConnell says he would fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2020

By Caroline Linton

/ CBS News

Mitch McConnell said Tuesday Republicans would fill a Supreme Court vacancy if one came up in 2020, a reversal of his position during a Democratic presidency. "Oh, we'd fill it," McConnell said to laughs at the Paducah Chamber luncheon when an audience member asked what they would do if a Supreme Court justice died in 2020.

"The reason I started with the judges is important as all these other things are that we're talking about, I mean, you want to have a long, lasting positive impact on the country," McConnell said via a livestream provided by WPSD. "Everything else changes. I remember during the tax bill, people were agonizing over whether one part of the tax bill was permanent or not, I said, 'look the only way the tax bill is permanent depends on the next election.' The next election because people have different views about taxes in the two parties and approach it differently when they get in power.

"What can't be undone is a lifetime appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of a judge is to follow the law," McConnell said. "That's the important thing we've done for the country, which cannot be undone."

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It's a reversal of his position during former President Obama's presidency. When Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell refused to have a hearing on Mr. Obama's nominee Merrick Garland. Republicans had the majority in the Senate, and he said he wanted to wait until after the presidential election. The seat was left vacant until April 2017, when President Trump nominated conservative justice Neil Gorsuch.

McConnell has previously suggested he would not hold up a nominee again in an election year. He told Fox News last year that in 2020, Republicans will hold both the White House and the Senate, but said "we'll see if there is a vacancy."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, tweeted on Tuesday that McConnell is a "hypocrite."

McConnell also said that if he is still the Senate Majority Leader after the 2020 election, regardless of who wins the presidency, two of the biggest campaign points for Democrats will not pass. "The Green New Deal and Medicare for All are not passing. Period," McConnell said.

McConnell's comments were first reported by CNN.

First published on May 29, 2019 / 12:06 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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