Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially won his effort to deny President Obama another Supreme Court pick on Tuesday at noon, when U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination expired. Senate Republicans refused to even give Garland a hearing for ten months, leaving late justice Antonin Scalia’s seat vacant.
“I’ve been clear throughout that the next president would name the next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said. “Now, the president who won the election will make the nomination, and the Senate the American people just re-elected will consider that nomination.”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer intends to beat McConnell at his own game. In an interview with Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, Schumer said Trump’s nominee will only be confirmed if he finds someone who appeals to both Republicans and Democrats — and he said that’s “hard for me to imagine.”
When asked if that means he’s open to leaving the ninth seat open indefinitely, Schumer said, “Absolutely.”
“The consequences are gonna be down the road,” he added. “We are not going to settle on a Supreme Court nominee. If they don’t appoint someone who’s really good, we’re gonna oppose him tooth and nail.”
Schumer said earlier this week that he wishes Democrats hadn’t triggered the “nuclear option” in 2013, reducing the number of Senate votes needed to confirm cabinet picks from 60 to 51. But since the 60-vote threshold is still in place for Supreme Court appointments, eight Democrats would have to side with all 52 Republicans for a new justice to be confirmed.
“We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice,” Schumer said.