Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he would back the nomination of Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general.
Politico asked the Kentucky Republican if he supported Garland’s nomination, even after he refused to allow a hearing on his nomination to the Supreme Court five years ago.
“I do,” McConnell told the publication. He declined to elaborate.
President Joe Biden tapped Garland, a former federal prosecutor who led the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, to be his attorney general shortly after his inauguration last month. He has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997.
McConnell refused to considering Garland’s nomination by then-President Barack Obama in 2016 following the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing that a vacancy in an election year should be decided by the American people. Donald Trump won that election and nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench in 2017.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, just months before the election that saw Biden elevated to the presidency, Republicans quickly moved to fill her seat with Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day.
McConnell called his unprecedented efforts to block Garland the “most consequential thing I’ve ever done” and the peak achievement in his effort to reshape the nation’s judiciary.
At his confirmation hearing this week, Garland vowed to restore independence to the Justice Department and tackle growing domestic issues. He said the ongoing investigation into the deadly riot at the Capitol will be a priority, as will the growth of domestic extremism.
“I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone,” Garland told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. He added that the “attorney general represents the public interest,” a subtle jab at his predecessors who have been criticized for politicizing the role.
Other top Republicans have already announced their support for Garland, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). McConnell’s backing could lead to other GOPers voting in favor of Garland’s nomination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on his nomination on March 1, and his final confirmation vote in the full chamber could take place sometime in the next week.