Sen. McConnell: The Supreme Court Vacancy Was Key to President Trump’s Win

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) recently insisted that the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court just filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch was a key factor in President Donald Trump’s White House victory last November.

Speaking of the the Supreme Court vacancy, Sen. McConnell told the Washington Examiner, “At the end, this issue more than any other elected Donald Trump, because, at the end, you had two candidates who were overwhelmingly unpopular.”

McConnell noted that blocking President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat suddenly left vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016 was important.

As Obama’s remaining months in office wound down last year, he made the uncommon move of nominating a replacement for Scalia instead of waiting for the results of the then-upcoming election and allowing the next president to make a nomination.

As leader of the Senate, McConnell decided not to allow the Garland nomination to move forward, arguing that since the election was so close, the next president — whether it be Trump or Clinton — should be allowed the nomination.

According to McConnell, the possibility that a Republican could get the next nomination energized the drive to elect Trump.

“Nobody was predicting Trump would get 90 percent of the Republican vote just like Mitt Romney did [in 2012,] but he did,” McConnell said. “And the single biggest reason was, they wanted him to make the Supreme Court appointment, not Hillary Clinton.”

“This call was made in February,” McConnell concluded. “We didn’t know who our nominee was going to be yet. What I did not predict was that we would nominate somebody who a lot of Republicans questioned whether he was a Republican. I mean, after all, Donald Trump was having fundraisers for [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer four or five years ago.”

Before his election, Donald Trump met with several groups of conservatives and asked for their recommendation as to whom he should pick for the Supreme Court and then made the unusual move of publicizing his list of possible picks. Trump’s move brought in many voices of support for his campaign that he may not otherwise have won.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.