As a U.S. senator, Joe Biden repeatedly urged President George H.W. Bush not to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court until after the election year, a position that is at odds with President Obama’s push to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia before he leaves office.
A 1992 Washington Post article unearthed Tuesday quoted Biden, now Obama’s vice president, as arguing that Bush should delay a prospective nomination to the Supreme Court until after the November election. Biden’s comments in the interview were consistent with his 1992 remarks on the Senate floor, video of which was circulated Monday, during which he demanded that a nomination be put off.
“If someone steps down, I would highly recommend the president not name someone, not send a name up,” Biden, then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Washington Post scribe E.J. Dionne. “If he [Bush] did send someone up, I would ask the Senate to seriously consider not having a hearing on that nominee.”
“Can you imagine dropping a nominee, after the three or four or five decisions that are about to made by the Supreme Court, into that fight, into that cauldron in the middle of a presidential year?” Biden continued. “I believe there would be no bounds of propriety that would be honored by either side. … The environment within which such a hearing would be held would be so supercharged and so prone to be able to be distorted.”
“Whomever the nominee was, good, bad, or indifferent, would become a victim,” Biden added.
The interview was published on June 19, 1992, a week before Biden voiced a similar argument on the Senate floor, according to the video unearthed by C-SPAN Monday.
Biden’s previous comments strengthen arguments from Senate Republicans who oppose Obama’s plan to nominate a replacement for Scalia in coming weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and others have argued that the vacancy should be filled after the election year by the next president.
Biden said in a statement Monday that it was inaccurate to characterize his remarks as evidence that he opposes filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court during an election year.
“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,” the vice president stated. “In the same statement critics are pointing to today, I 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.”