McConnell: You'd better believe we'll fill any SCOTUS opening next year

You’d better believe this will surprise absolutely no one, either. What would Mitch McConnell do if a Supreme Court seat opened up next year, asked one questioner in a Kentucky townhall, in the middle of the election? Would McConnell follow his precedent and the “Biden rule” and wait until after the election to act?

Come on, man. You’re talking to Cocaine Mitch:

Speaking at a Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky, McConnell was asked by an attendee, “Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?”

The leader took a long sip of what appeared to be iced tea before announcing with a smile, “Oh, we’d fill it,” triggering loud laughter from the audience.

Ahem. What about all of the principled talk about allowing the people to weigh in on the choice? McConnell’s office tried to spin this as a principled stand, too:

David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said the difference between now and three years ago, when McConnell famously blocked Judge Merrick Garland’s ascension to the Supreme Court, is that at that time the White House was controlled by a Democrat and the Senate by Republicans. This time, both are controlled by the GOP.

Soooooo … the principle in play is “because we can”? Not to denigrate it, of course — it’s been the only principle either side has had in the decades-long fight over the judiciary.  Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid employed the exact same principle starting in 2002 when they began their lengthy campaign to block George W. Bush nominees from reaching the federal bench, and then when they changed the rules in 2013 to keep Republicans from getting even.

Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist are aghast at “the death of shame” that this response supposedly represents:

I hate to break the news to the Morning Joe crew, but shame died a long time ago on Capitol Hill. McConnell’s just tap-dancing on its grave a bit in this instance. It’s tough to pinpoint the date, but death might have occurred somewhere between Senate Democrats’ outrage over the leak of a memo on blockading Miguel Estrada’s confirmation rather than remorse over singling him out for his Hispanic heritage, and when Harry Reid joyfully noted that his McCarthyist lies over Mitt Romney’s taxes had succeeded. If the panel wants to get exercised over “cynicism,” then McConnell’s sly smile pales in comparison to this:

That’s not to say that McConnell’s answer isn’t hypocritical. Of course it is. Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm on Capitol Hill, though, and that didn’t start with Cocaine Mitch. He just plays the game better than most.