McConnell Op-Ed Arguing for People to Have a Voice on SCOTUS Pick Resurfaces

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will push ahead with hearings to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg despite refusing to allow a vote on Merrick Garland during the 2016 presidential election.

Critics have charged McConnell with hypocrisy as an op-ed he wrote for USA Today more than four years ago has resurfaced online. McConnell argued on March 16, 2016 that voters should have a voice in choosing the next justice.

President Barack Obama had nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia but McConnell refused to hearings and laid out his reasoning in the article.

"The next Supreme Court justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the court and our country for a generation, and the American people deserve a voice in such a momentous decision," McConnell said.

These are exactly the sentiments that many Democrats have been expressing since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's liberal stalwart.

McConnell went on to cite the so-called "Biden Rule." When former Vice President Joe Biden was in the Senate, he suggested that presidents shouldn't nominate justices to the Supreme Court during presidential election cycles.

"Once the political season is under way, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over," McConnell quoted Biden as saying.

Though Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the "Biden Rule" was never a formal rule, but Republicans adopted it as a useful rhetorical device in 2016.

"Let's not allow partisan fighting on one issue to prevent the Senate from addressing other priorities, such as our economy and national security. Instead, let's focus on where we can agree," McConnell wrote.

McConnell argued that the Senate could continue dealing with other vital matters while "the American people can continue the national conversation about the type of justice who should serve on the Supreme Court."

"The Senate can then appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next president — whoever that might be — nominates," he wrote.

McConnell struck a different tone on September 18. Though Ginsburg's death was much closer to this year's election than Scalia's was to the 2016 vote, McConnell said the Senate would proceed with the nominating process.

"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," he said.

"President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

Some conservatives have argued that the "Biden Rule" doesn't apply this year because Republicans control both the White House and the Senate but McConnell's 2016 op-ed doesn't contain that caveat.

Mitch McConnell's office has been asked for comment on this article.

Senator Mitch McConnell Speaks to the Media
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) speaks to members of the media as Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (L) listens after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at Hart Senate Office Building September 9, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. McConnell has said a Supreme Court nominee will get a vote. Alex Wong/Getty Images