Vice President Joe Biden is walking back statements he made in which he expressed opposition to the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy until after the resolution of a presidential election. In a clip of a 1992 speech he delivered on the Senate floor, Biden says “It is my view that if a Supreme Court Justice resigns tomorrow or within 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.”
Now, however, Biden is singing another tune. In a statement released today, Biden says that the speech does not accurately portray his views. "Nearly a quarter century ago, in June 1992, I gave a lengthy speech on the Senate floor about a hypothetical vacancy on the Supreme Court," Biden said in the statement. "Some critics say that one excerpt of my speech is evidence that I oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. This is not an accurate description of my views on the subject."
In today’s statement, Biden claims that in the same 1992 speech, he called on the White House and the Senate to "work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended." He claimed in his statement, "That remains my position today."
Biden said he was proud of his record as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, noting that he was around for the appointment of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a presidential election year.
"While some say that my comments in June 1992 contributed to a more politicized nomination process, they didn't prevent the Senate from fulfilling its constitutional duties, because there was no vacancy at the time," Biden said in today’s statement. "During my career on the Judiciary Committee, I ensured the prompt and fair consideration of nine Supreme Court Justices and the current Senate has a constitutional duty to do the same."
President Obama has said that he plans to nominate justice to the high court of “indisputably” high credentials. Among the possibilities to replace Justice Antonin Scalia are Attorney General Loretta Lynch. A number of Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are calling for the decision to be made after the election.
Here follows a transcript of Biden's remarks of 1992:
It is my view that if a Supreme Court Justice resigns tomorrow or within 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.
The Senate, too, Mr. President must consider how it would respond to a Supreme Court vacancy that would occur in the full throws of an election year. It is my view that if the president goes in the way of President's 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.
And I sadly predict, Mr. President, that this is going to be one of the bitterest, dirtiest presidential campaigns we will have seen in modern times. I'm sure, Mr. President, after having uttered these words, some, some will criticize such a decision and say it was nothing more than attempt to save a seat on the court in hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it.
But that would not be our intention, Mr. President, if that were the course we were to choose as a Senate to not consider holding hearings till after the elections. Instead, it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. That is what is fair to the nominee and essential to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me, Mr. President, we will be in deep trouble as an institution.