A clip went viral on social media of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., taking credit for federal judicial vacancies left open at the end of the Obama administration, in which he says there were so many because “I’ll tell you why. [It’s] because I was in charge of what we did in the last two years of the Obama administration.”
The quote led to a call of hypocrisy on the part of McConnell regarding the prospect of Democratic court-packing.
The clip has more than 6.5 million views on Twitter as people turn their attention to the courts during the Senate hearings over Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
Did McConnell take credit for the court vacancies left behind by the Obama administration?
Yes. The viral clip is taken from an interview McConnell gave on Fox News' "Hannity" in December 2019.
WHAT WE FOUND
The clip in question came about 10 minutes into McConnell's December 13, 2019, interview with Sean Hannity.
The video on Fox News' website shows that the viral clip has been unedited and McConnell said those exact words. It was in reference to both lower court judge vacancies and the Supreme Court's vacancy left behind by Justice Antonin Scalia's passing in 2016.
A Congressional Research Service Insight paper said there were 88 federal court vacancies at the end of Obama's presidency, more than double the 44 vacancies present when he first stepped into office.
The author of the paper added, "The size of the increase in the number of district court vacancies from the beginning to the end of the Obama presidency reflects, in part, the comparatively small number of district court nominations confirmed by the Senate during the final two years of the Obama presidency."
Congress approved only 18 district court nominations during those two years while 43 Obama nominations, including 20 that were pending, were returned to him at the end of that Congressional period.
Most notably, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on Obama's 2016 Supreme Court nomination, Merrick Garland, on the basis that they shouldn't confirm his nominee during an election year.
McConnell has argued that this nomination is different because the Senate and the presidency are of the same party now while they were of opposing parties in 2016. An earlier VERIFY noted that McConnell's argument left out the additional context of proximity to Election Day when the Supreme Court vacancies opened.