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DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called it a hypothetical situation, but did not rule out the potential for a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to once again block a Democratic president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
Ernst fielded a question about potential future Supreme Court vacancies Tuesday during a conference call with Iowa reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this week on a conservative radio program that if Republicans regain a majority in the 2022 elections, he would block any Supreme Court nominees put forth by Democratic President Joe Biden in 2024, a presidential election year.
Speculation has swirled over whether liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer may retire soon.
“If McConnell is the majority leader and we have a different party president, then I’m sure you can see a situation similar to several years ago,” Ernst said Tuesday. “But again, it’s a hypothetical right now.”
In 2016, as Senate leader with a GOP majority, McConnell blocked Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination for a Supreme Court vacancy after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia 270 days before the election.
But in 2020, Majority Leader McConnell moved quickly to confirm Republican President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 47 days before the election.
Election-year Supreme Court nominations in which the president and U.S. Senate majority are opposite parties are rare. Before Obama’s 2016 nomination, the earliest was in 1956. In that case, a Democratic Senate approved the nomination of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower after the election.
Before that, the earliest such election-year nomination under split presidential and Senate control was in 1888.
“I don’t know of any vacancies that will be occurring, and if something does occur, then we will see. There’s already precedent out there,” Ernst said.