When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, conflict quickly emerged between Democrats and Republicans as to whether then-President Barack Obama, who had at that time eleven months left in office, should be able to nominate a justice to replace Scalia. Mitch McConnell was adamant that an outgoing president should not be able to nominate a justice in an election year, even going as far to refuse to meet with Obama's pick, Chief Circuit Judge Merrick Garland of the District of Columbia Circuit. McConnell's efforts were ultimately victorious, and Obama was unable to fill Scalia's vacant seat.
However, now that there is a Republican in the White House, McConnell is changing his tune. When asked what would be done if a justice left the court in 2020 (the next election year, and the last year of Trump's presidency), McConnell replied that the seat would be filled.
This claim came as a shock to many, as McConnell had previously stated that confirming a justice chosen by an outgoing president would be an insult to the American people.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” McConnell stated. ” The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.” Yet now that there is a Republican in the White House, the voice of the American people seems to no longer be a concern of McConnell's. If a justice were to leave the court next year, the public would have no control over the nomination—they would not be able to potentially vote in a new candidate who may nominate a different justice. Trump, and his Republican brethren, would remain in control of the court.