Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) grew frustrated with CNN host Ashleigh Banfield on Thursday as she pointed out past Democratic political maneuvers over Republican Supreme Court nominations, at one point asking pointedly, “May I speak?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other Republicans have remained steadfast they will not hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court appointment Merrick Garland.
In defense of that decision, they have frequently referenced the “Biden rule,” named after current Vice President Joe Biden’s 1992 statement that then-President George H.W. Bush ought to hold off on any Supreme Court nominations until after that year’s election if a vacancy occurred.
There is also no requirement in the Constitution that the Senate hold hearings and confirm the president’s appointment.
“We have had decades and decades of what’s come to be known as sort of tradition in the senate,” Banfield said. “That a nomination and a confirmation shouldn’t happen during an election year. I think Joe Biden in 1992 even talked about it. It is a bit apples and oranges. He was talking about if the nominee could meet with Congress, if the president at the time could meet with Congress, then maybe that could be assuaged.”
“Very different, Ashleigh. Very different,” Franken said. “In terms of the timing too. Put it in full context.”
“OK,” Banfield said.
Franken argued Biden made those remarks in June of that year and was not referring to a vacancy caused by a death, as the current one currently was by the sudden passing of Justice Antonin Scalia last month.
“No one games the system by dying. You don’t do that,” Franken said. “You are not quoting Joe Biden in totality.”
“I didn’t quote him at all. I paraphrased the concept of what happened in 1992–” Banfield said.
“You’re paraphrasing him not in his entirety,” Franken replied.
Banfield retorted that Franken couldn’t argue this wasn’t a “political thing all the time.”
“The Democrats filibustered like mad the nomination of Sam Alito, and politics can come back to bite you in the you-know-what,” she said. “Is there regret on the side of the Democrats for having done that, because now, it’s come home to roost?”
Franken said Alito nevertheless was now on the Supreme Court, and he added Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in an election year.
“But not nominated in that year,” Banfield said.
“No, he was confirmed in that year,” Franken said.
“Correct, but not nominated in that year,” Banfield said. “That’s something the Republicans are quick to point out, that it’s a nomination and a confirmation in all the same year, you have to give them that.”
“OK, May I speak?” Franken asked. “You really–thank you.”
Franken said Republicans would set a “dangerous precedent” if they set a time limit for Supreme Court vacancies in election years.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) also became angry when a reporter on Feb. 25 talked about past Democratic tactics in Supreme Court fights, saying “your point isn’t well taken.”