WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, even though it’s an election year.
The Republican Senate leader issued a statement Friday night, about an hour and a half after the Supreme Court announced the liberal justice’s death from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
"In the last midterm before election before Justice Scalia's death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president's second term," McConnell's statement read. "We kept our promise."
"By contrast," McConnell added, "Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise."
As of September, the U.S. Senate has confirmed over 200 federal judges nominated by President Trump.
When conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, also an election year, McConnell refused to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the opening. The seat remained vacant until after Trump’s surprising presidential victory.
After the death of Scalia, Trump ended up nominating Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the court.
A number of lawmakers have called for McConnell to not bring a Trump nominee to the Senate floor until after the election, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
Schumer's statement echoed McConnell's words after the death of Justice Scalia: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday night that, "there is no doubt, let me be clear: the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider."
In a post on Medium, former president Barack Obama addressed the controversy about Republicans holding up his nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
"A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle. As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard," Obama wrote.
The 2020 election is 46 days away.
McConnell had earlier said he would move to confirm a Trump nominee if there were a vacancy this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.