Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has backtracked on his own standard for holding hearings on Supreme Court nominees.
He said the Senate will vote on President Donald Trump's pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy because "we're right in the middle of this president’s very first term."
WATCH: Majority Leader McConnell on US Supreme Court vacancy: "This is not 2016. There aren’t the final months of… https://t.co/EzSvsA6EyA— NBC News (@NBC News)1530211018.0
"The Senate will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall," McConnell said in an address to the Senate on Thursday. "This is not 2016. There aren’t the final months of a second-term, constitutionally lame-duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching. We're right in the middle of this president’s very first term."
He continued, saying there was no precedent for holding up Supreme Court nominations in midterm election years.
To my knowledge, nobody on either side has ever suggested, before yesterday, that the Senate should only process Supreme Court nominations in odd-numbered years.
McConnell added that hearings for Trump's pick to replace Kennedy should be treated no differently than those that were held to consider previous nominees for the nation's highest court in non-presidential election years.
The situation today is much like when Justice Kagan was confirmed in 2010 and when Justice Breyer was confirmed in 1994... and Justice Souter in 1990. In each case, the president was about a year and a half into his first term.
No one could have seen this coming.
You'll recall that in 2016, McConnell denied President Barack Obama the chance to have hearings on Judge Merrick Garland, whom Obama tapped to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia died in February 2016, just shy of a year before the end of Obama's second term - hardly the "final months," as McConnell referred to them.
@NBCNews Final months? Scalia died in February.— paul marvin (@paul marvin)1530211849.0
McConnell changed Senate procedure with the "nuclear option," eliminating the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees and changing the number of votes required for confirmation to 51, down from 60.
That left Scalia's seat unfilled until Trump's nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court on April 1, 2017 by a 54-45 vote. Three Democratic Senators: Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly also voted in Gorsuch's favor.
@NBCNews @MeetThePress Hey @SenateMajLdr, you implemented the McConnell Rule. THIS is all your idea. Be an American… https://t.co/bPGlbcLHFQ— crackers28 (@crackers28)1530211485.0
McConnell claimed at the time that Obama "made this nomination not, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election," despite Obama's constitutional right, and duty, to fill vacant Supreme Court seats.
"I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president," McConnell said.
"The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice. Let's let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be," he added.
"One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" McConnell said in 2016.
In 2017, he said:
Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate.
But it appears McConnell has no intention of letting the American people "have their say," and Twitter went absolutely ballistic.
Indeed, McConnell seems to be making the rules up as he goes along.
@NBCNews Why bother justifying when it's clear you're making up the rules as you go along? Just drop the pretenses… https://t.co/9z7zxkWsif— Dr. Jay Weixelbaum (@Dr. Jay Weixelbaum)1530211169.0
@NBCNews Yes, a president* who lost the popular vote by 3 million while you screwed a two-term president who won th… https://t.co/S8TWP4X7cn— Mark Bagby (@Mark Bagby)1530211220.0
@NBCNews @Bella2Gia No, we're in the last month's of a goodly number of congressional terms - same thing as in 2016… https://t.co/wsjRWQoJ1X— Tom Sisk (@Tom Sisk)1530211675.0
"'... and we're right in the middle of my hypocrisy and complete disregard of the constitution.' - McConnell finishes internally."
@NBCNews "... and we're right in the middle of my hypocrisy and complete disregard of the constitution." - McConnell finishes internally.— DevChick is Kamala's Hair Flip Democrat Savage (@DevChick is Kamala's Hair Flip Democrat Savage)1530211673.0