Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Joe Biden: President shouldn't tap SCOTUS nominee in election year

Well, well, well ... look what C-SPAN uncovered:

If you didn't watch the short video linked in the above tweet, it shows then-Sen. Joe Biden arguing that, should a vacancy occur during that election year, the Senate shouldn't confirm a nominee by then-President George H.W. Bush. Just like the situation in which we find ourselves today, you might say, except that Biden was being purely hypothetical -- engaging in pre-emptive obstructionism, you might say.

Interestingly, Biden's comments came as part of a longer speech  about the confirmation process. In that speech, part of his justification for greater Senate scrutiny of Supreme Court nominees during the Reagan-Bush years was that the American people had voted for divided government -- Republican presidents but, since 1986, wholly Democratic control of Congress. One might note that, unlike President Obama's first two nominees to the Supreme Court, the current opening comes after Republicans have been voted into control of the Senate as well as the House. That would seem to underscore the similarity between Biden's belief back then and Senate Republicans' similar belief today.

Maybe Biden's thinking is what influenced the view of Sen. Chuck Schumer, back in 2007, that in the event of a vacancy before an election year, Senate Democrats shouldn't confirm a judge nominated by President George W. Bush:

Like Biden before him, Schumer couched his comments in terms of the need to maintain ideological balance on the court. Schumer specifically said "We cannot afford to see Justice (John Paul) Stevens replaced by another (Chief Justice John) Roberts or Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg by another (Justice Samuel) Alito." His Republican counterparts might say we can't afford to see Justice Antonin Scalia replaced by another liberal justice like Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan. What's ironic is that Schumer argued the court already was "dangerously out of balance" with four conservatives, four liberals and one centrist. Allowing Obama to replace Scalia with another Sotomayor or Kagan would, by contrast, actually put the court out of balance.

The fact I have not seen liberals engage honestly is that the escalation of friction regarding court nominations until now has almost always been committed by Democrats. From the ideological rejection of Robert Bork to the filibuster (not even allowing a vote) of Miguel Estrada to the musings of Biden and Schumer about whether to take up hypothetical nominations in the event of hypothetical openings, innovations in obstruction of nominations have almost always been pioneered by Democrats. And now that Republicans are set to make their own escalation -- by taking the advice of these Democrats -- suddenly the world is being turned upside down.

Pass them some smelling salts so they can wake up and watch the videos showing that even this new ground was first surveyed by, you guessed it, Democrats.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.