What a difference five years appears to make.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will back President Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland.
“I do,” McConnell told Politico when asked Tuesday afternoon if he plans to support Garland, a longtime federal judge and ex-federal prosecutor, in becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official.
McConnell did not share further explanation for his support.
A spokesman for McConnell confirmed to The Courier Journal that the Kentucky Republican “supports Garland’s nomination.”
“If he comments further, I will make sure you get it,” McConnell spokesman Robert Steuer wrote in an email.
McConnell was the Senate’s majority leader in 2016, when he declined to have his chamber consider Garland’s nomination by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the time, McConnell said American voters should ultimately have a say in the Supreme Court seat made vacant by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, with the GOP leader explaining it was a presidential election year and the White House and Senate were controlled by different parties.
Soon after Obama, a Democrat, formally nominated Garland in 2016, McConnell said the former president and his allies “may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person.”
But the decision to block Garland’s nomination, McConnell said in 2016, “remains about a principle, not a person.”
McConnell’s move paid off later that year for Republicans, when Donald Trump won the White House and the GOP-controlled Senate subsequently approved Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat in 2017.
Since then, McConnell has described his decision to block Garland as the “most consequential thing I’ve ever done.”
McConnell followed that up by helping Brett Kavanaugh succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in 2018, a move that McConnell described as “the single most important thing I’ve been involved in in my career.”
And before his six-year reign as the Senate’s majority leader ended in January, McConnell oversaw the confirmation last October of Amy Coney Barrett, the third Trump nominee to the nation’s high court.
Barrett’s confirmation, which came during a presidential election year but while the GOP still controlled the White House and Senate, was a “capstone” to the work to transform the federal judiciary during Trump’s presidency, McConnell said last fall.
McConnell has not ignored Garland since his Supreme Court snub.
In 2017, McConnell recommended the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge to lead the FBI, noting Garland “has a deep background in criminal law” and was the prosecutor in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case.
Garland was reportedly not interested in the FBI job, however.
But he now appears to have bipartisan support for the attorney general position.
All five witnesses at Garland’s confirmation hearing Tuesday gave him glowing recommendations, and the Department of Justice said numerous law enforcement groups support his nomination, including the Fraternal Order of Police.
Earlier in the week, Garland also told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would not be “the president’s lawyer” and touched on questions related to domestic terrorism, immigration, systemic racism, drug policy and more.
The full Senate is expected to vote next week on Garland’s nomination.
Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Mitch McConnell to support Merrick Garland attorney general nomination