Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there is "no reason" for the Senate to dodge their responsibility and confirm a well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court in an interview Thursday night with FOX News.
MCCONNELL: SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS HOST: With just 40 days to go until the November election, it feels as if there are numerous momentous issues to be tackled in a very short period of time.
Just to name a few, a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president names his nominee this weekend. He also wants the courts to weigh-in on mail-in ballots.
That could happen with a new justice before the election, at least in a temporary way. Not to mention the ongoing riots and protests in America's largely Democratically run cities, plus a fight over how and when to approve a coronavirus vaccine.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joins me now for his first interview since the passing of Justice Ginsburg. He, of course, is at the center of several of these critical stories, including his own re-election.
Mr. Majority Leader, thank you for joining us.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Glad to be with you, Shannon.
BREAM: OK, so you know folks are pointing back to your comments from 2016 and the decision to hold off on voting for Judge Merrick Garland when he was nominated by President Obama. You have explained that.
Some say there's a distinction with no difference. But here is what your Senate colleague Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin, had to say about the rush to get this done.
Here's what he says. He said, I wish that Senator McConnell was this fast when it came to dealing with the pandemic that we have or dealing with the economy and all of the people who were suffering. He has no time for them, but when it comes to the Trump nominee for Supreme Court, he wastes no time and pulls out all the stops.
Your response, sir?
MCCONNELL: Well, he knows the reason we haven't done another rescue package is because the speaker and the Democratic leader in the Senate have been resisting having another deal.
Look, here -- here are the facts with regard to the Supreme Court. There have been 15 occasions where a president has nominated, during an election year, someone to the Supreme Court. In eight of those 15 occasions, the president's party was the party of the Senate. And seven out of eight times they were confirmed, one time blew up in a -- in a scandal.
What we had in 2016 was a time of divided government. You had the president, a Democrat, the Senate Republican, divided government. You'd have to go back to 1888 to find the last time a vacancy on the Supreme Court created during a presidential election was filled by a party different from that of the president.
So this is entirely consistent with the history of handling Supreme Court vacancies in the middle of presidential elections.
BREAM: Do you think the average American gets the nuance of that? You know, the latest CNN poll says 59 percent of Americans think the next president, whoever is elected or re-elected on November 3rd, should be the one who gets to fill that seat.
MCCONNELL: Well, I think they've not seen the nominee yet. Right now, this is a hypothetical caught (ph) up in the presidential election. By Saturday afternoon, we'll have an individual. The president said it's going to be a woman. She'll be judged on her own merits by the American people.
I'm confident he's going to make an outstanding nomination. The American people are going to take a look at this nominee and conclude, as we are likely to conclude, that she well deserves to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
BREAM: Are there worries for you that some of your members who are very tough re-election battles -- you're in a re-election battle yourself -- potentially are going to be in danger of losing their seats if the left is motivated by this vote?
Here is something that Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who ran for president this year, had to say.
He said we have good reason to believe we are going to win the Senate, not just Arizona, Colorado, Maine-- the three where we're ahead in the polls and ahead in online fundraising.
But we're seeing in Alaska, of all places, Dr. Al Gross, a commercial fisherman, running as an independent tied 43, 43 with a freshman incumbent Dan Sullivan. So, the map is expanding in our favor.
Do you worry about the Senate?
MCCONNELL: Well look, we can't pick and choose when big decisions are forced upon us by things that we did not anticipate, like the untimely death of Justice Ginsburg who, by the way, had a spectacular career and was an inspiration to millions of Americans.
But the election is no reason to dodge our responsibility and not go forward with a well-qualified nominee, which I anticipate we're going to get Saturday afternoon.
BREAM: So, another one of your colleagues, who has occasionally crossed over to vote for some of the judicial nominees that you have put through at a record pace, Democratic Joe Manchin had this to say.
He said, I would hope that you understand what you're about to do. This has never been done. You're setting a precedent that's never been set before, talking about just how close we are to the election for filling this seat.
What do you say to him?
MCCONNELL: Well, it's not a precedent that hasn't been set before. I already addressed that at the beginning of our interview. There's nothing inappropriate about filling this vacancy.
Many Supreme Court vacancies have been dealt with in a shorter timeframe than the timeframe between now and the election, or the timeframe between now and the end of this Senate, which is at the end of this calendar year.
This -- there's nothing extraordinary about the situation, nothing unusual about the situation. They don't like what happened, I understand that. They've been block voting against all of our judicial nominees anyway.
They're threatening to do one thing or another, but they were already threatening to blow up the Senate by getting rid of the filibuster, to admit two states, District -- and the District and Puerto Rico, and they were already threatening to pack the Supreme Court. We've heard all these threats before.
We intend to move forward, to exercise our responsibility and to vote on this outstanding nominee that we'll get later in the week.
BREAM: So, your counterpart, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has had plenty to say about this. He, of course, is diametrically opposed to what you plan to do. He says the president is all about getting somebody on the court who will help him if there is an election battle that gets to the Supreme Court.
And Democrats are consistently also pointing to the Affordable Care Act, a big case there on November 10th. They say the president wants -- and with your help will get -- a conservative justice who will overturn healthcare for millions of people. How do you answer that, because it's becoming a talking point on the campaign trail?
MCCONNELL: Well, it's very difficult to predict how people vote when they get on the Supreme Court. It's a lifetime appointment, the founders set it up that way on purpose, and predictions about how people are going to vote when they get on the Supreme Court have been consistently wrong.
I mean, you should have heard the things that they said about John Paul Stevens or about David Souter, Republican presidential nominees. Both of them turned out to be big liberals.
So, it's very difficult to predict how somebody is going to rule, because once they put the black robe on, as Chief Justice Robert said -- or actually Justice Gorsuch said last year -- they don't wear red robes or blue robes, they wear black robes.