Remember When Joe Biden Said Block SCOTUS Nominees During Election Year? No? Good, Because He Didn’t

In the wake of the death of Antonin Scalia and the drama surrounding the appointment of his replacement, a new video of Joe Biden during the 1992 election is causing quite a stir on the right-side of the aisle — even though, as you might expect, the right-wing isn’t capturing the whole story.

“Compromise is the responsible course”

Mitch McConnell, he of the turtle-like appearance, said he didn’t believe congress should nominate a SCOTUS appointee during the election year. McConnell isn’t alone; the Republicans have been intransigent in their refusal to do their job. Now, there’s nothing unusual about this. They’ve been childishly stomping their feet and threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue since Obama got elected in 2008. The controversy over the Supreme Court nomination isn’t new behavior; it’s a continuation of the old bad behavior parochial voters have supported since they began electing these clowns.

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However, the right-wing will look for any excuse in an attempt to rationalize this childish behavior, and a video posted on C-SPAN in February showing then-Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) urging President George H. W. Bush not to nominate a SCOTUS Justice during the 1992 election has given them that out.

Or so they think.

In the clip, Biden — then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Bush “not to name a nominee until after the November election is completed,” and that if he did, “the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”

Conservatives quickly spun this into a talking point and claimed that the Congressional Republicans were merely following a long-standing precedent in refusing to consider Obama’s nomination.

Well, I mean, eight years of Congressional Republican contumacious obdurate intractability is something of a long-standing precedent, so even without this talking point, conservatives are still correct. In refusing this nominee, the Republicans are following something of a tradition, just not one Biden started.

Of course, listening to the speech quickly refutes the idea Biden started anything at all. Rather than urging his colleagues to deny a SCOTUS nominee, Biden was lamenting how politicized the process itself had become. This was why he suggested not holding the nominee until after the election — so it wouldn’t be so political.

How can we be sure? Well, just 10 minutes after calling for temporary inaction on Bush’s candidate, Biden actually promised to consider a moderate SCOTUS nominee:

I believe that so long as the public continues to split its confidence between the branches, compromise is the responsible course both for the White House and for the Senate. Therefore I stand by my position, Mr. President, if the President [George H.W. Bush] consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter.

Biden’s office even released a statement on the matter:

Nearly a quarter century ago, in June 1992, I gave a lengthy speech on the Senate floor about a hypothetical vacancy on the Supreme Court. Some critics say that one excerpt of my speech is evidence that I oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. This is not an accurate description of my views on the subject. Indeed, as I conclude in the same statement critics are pointing to today, urged the Senate and White House to work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended. That remains my position today.

Biden was lamenting the politicization of the process, and wanted to wait until the election season was over so politics wouldn’t play such a huge role. Now, that’s naivety I find amusing — everything is political in a democratic society, and everything should be political in a democratic society — but he’s hardly setting a trend or claiming that this should be an ongoing precedent. And, in fact, precedence suggests the just the opposite, and the senate has frequently seated judges during presidential elections.

Not that the Republicans care. This is just an extension of their 2008 strategy, “whatever Obama supports, we oppose.”

Watch the video below:


Feature image via Talking Points Memo

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