Vice President Joe Biden argued in 1992 when he was a senator that President George H.W. Bush shouldn't nominate a new Supreme Court justice toward end of his term, and encouraged Democrats not to consider one if Bush sent one to the Senate.
"It is my view that if a Supreme Court justice resigns tomorrow or in the next several weeks or resigns at the end of the summer, President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not — and not — name a nominee until after the November election is completed," then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden said on the floor of the upper chamber in 1992.
Biden's statement is at odds with his criticisms of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like Biden has said this year that the next president, not Obama's, should name the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's successor. And it suggests that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's pledge to block any hypothetical Bush nominees in 2007 was in keeping with a long-standing Democratic tactic.
Schumer insisted last week that Republicans were going a step too far by contemplating a refusal to consider any nominee that Obama might proffer. "They have a constitutional obligation to hold hearings, conduct a full confirmation process, and vote on the nominee based on his or her merits," he said.
But Biden said the opposite in 1992. "It is my view that if the president goes the way of Presidents Fillmore and Johnson and presses an election year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over," he said.
The speech was part of a dramatic, years-long effort by Biden to block GOP nominees from reaching the Supreme Court. In 1991, he marshaled the unsuccessful case against Clarence Thomas' confirmation. In 1987, Biden succeeded to reject the confirmation of Judge Robert Bork due to his ideology.
That was the first filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in modern political history, and one that Biden hoped would boost his 1988 presidential campaign.
"They were the ones who started all this bad stuff with Bork and what they did to Bork was unseemly, terrible," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who defended Thomas and Bork through their hearings, told the Washington Examiner last week. "They have systematically destroyed what was once a consensus process."
Biden, for his part, expressed shock that Republicans might refuse to consider a Supreme Court nominee. "I don't believe in their heart they think this makes sense," Biden said on MSNBC. "They've never done this before."