Biden’s 1992 advice: Don’t nominate Supreme Court Justice in election year

Speaking on the Senate floor in 1992, Joe Biden stated that if a Supreme Court vacancy were to arise while the “political season [i.e., the presidential campaign] is underway,” President George H.W. Bush should follow the “practice of the majority of his predecessors” and not nominate anyone to the vacancy until after the election. Biden added that that if President Bush were to ignore that advice, the Senate Judiciary Committee should “seriously consider not scheduling” a hearing until after the election.

Ed Whelan at NRO’s Bench Memos has posted the video.

The first part of this advice is typical Biden hackery. There’s no reason why a president shouldn’t nominate a Supreme Court Justice during a presidential election year.

The second part of Biden’s advice is sound. There’s no reason why one party should confirm the Supreme Court nominee of another party during a presidential election year. And if it’s the best option politically, the Senate Judiciary Committee should decline to hold hearings in these circumstances.

Regardless of its wisdom, Biden’s advice should be quoted freely as President Obama prepares to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia in this highly contentious political season.

What I find most interesting about Biden’s 1992 comment is that it appears to have been gratuitous. There was no Supreme Court vacancy at the time Biden opined, and no reason to believe that a Justice was close to death or about to resign.

Thus, as far as I can tell, Biden didn’t need to make his remark; it was uncalled for. But when did that ever stop Talkin’ Joe?


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