Republicans now call it “the Biden Rule,” saying then-Sen. Joe Biden in 1992 set the standard for them when he argued that a president in an election year should not get fill a Supreme Court vacancy and that the matter should wait until after the election.
The president then was a Republican, and the debate was hypothetical because there was no vacancy. The president now, of course, is Biden’s fellow Democrat Barack Obama, there is a vacancy in an election year, and Biden absolutely thinks the president should get to fill the vacancy.
Biden today is working to explain his statement, saying that was completely different. It’s different, he says, mainly because that was late June. And this time it happened in February.
“Some have taken comments I made in 1992 to mean that I supported the same kind of obstructionist position as a senator. But that reading distorts the broader meaning of the speech I gave from the Senate floor that year,” he writes in the New York Times.
“It was late June, and at the time there was much speculation that a sitting justice would retire, leaving President George H.W. Bush to appoint a successor in the final months of his first term.
“We had been through several highly contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings during my tenure, and I feared that a nomination at that late date, just a few weeks before the presidential conventions, would create immense political acrimony.
“So I called on the president to wait until after the election to submit a nomination if a sitting justice were to create a vacancy by retiring before November. And if the president declined to do that, I recommended that the Judiciary Committee not hold hearings ‘until after the political campaign season is over.’”
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