In 2005, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd advocated that the Senate do exactly what Republican senators are doing right now and ignore the president’s judicial nominees.
Byrd, who represented West Virginia for five decades and was the longest-serving senator until his death in 2010, made the remarks in a speech at the left-leaning Center for America Progress, where he was introduced by founder John Podesta, who went on to become the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Sen. Byrd is a legendary figure in the annals of the Senate and perhaps the greatest living exemplar of Senate history and tradition,” Podesta said. He described Byrd’s multi-volume history of the Senate as “a masterful work and should be required reading.”
Clinton will talk about the issue again Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a speech in which she will express concern over who the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, would nominate to the nation’s highest court.
Several Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, have been accused of hypocrisy for saying in the past that the Senate did not have to consider a nominee but now calling on the Senate to consider Garland.
Here’s what Byrd said when talking about President George W. Bush’s nominees:
“There is no stipulation in the Constitution as to how the Senate is to express its advice or give its consent,” he said. “President Bush incorrectly . . . maintains that each nominee for a federal judgeship is entitled to an up or down vote. The Constitution does not say that. I say the Constitution itself does not say that each nominee is entitled to an up or down vote. The Constitution doesn’t say that, it doesn’t even say that there has to be a vote with respect to the giving of its consent. The Senate can refuse to confirm a nominee simply by saying nothing and doing nothing.”
Sound familiar? That’s what Republicans say now.
Legal and political experts say it’s possible – but not likely – that Republicans will hold pre-election confirmation hearings later this year if the public puts enough pressure on them to vote.
Lawmakers could decide to consider Garland in the so-called lame-duck session after the November election if the presidential contest doesn’t turn out the way they want.