Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Driving the Decisive Nail into the Coffin

Democrats and their media allies have been beside themselves over signals from Republicans that they will be loath to approve any Supreme Court nominee advanced by President Obama to fill the vacancy left by the sudden passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. All the usual rhetorical artillery has been wheeled out to be fired at the obdurate, obstructionist, racist Republicans, but the barrage has been thus far ineffectual given past statements by Senators Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer who urged that Democrats follow exactly the same policy they're now condemning when it was a Republican president who may have had an opportunity to make an appointment to the Court in his last year in office.

Now, however, comes the coup de grace to all claims by Democrats to be righteously doing the statesman-like thing while Republicans play an egregious game of partisan politics. C-Span has unearthed video of then Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden calling for the Senate to refuse to approve a possible nomination by President George H.W.Bush in 1992. This video nails the coffin shut on the Democrats' pretense of nobility in the face of Republican scurrility.

Current Judiciary Charirman Charles Grassley had some fun with this the other day:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley held his ground on the Senate floor on Monday, putting forth the words of former senator and current Vice President Joe Biden — what Grassley called the “Biden Rules” — as support for the legislative body’s decision to block any replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia until after the 2016 election.

Grassley’s floor statement came immediately after Minority Leader Harry Reid argued that respect for the Constitution demanded that the Senate not block the nominee. In 1992, then-Senator Biden argued that if a seat on the Court opened up, then “what is fair to the nominee and is central to the process” would be for President George H.W. Bush to postpone nominating a replacement until after the 1992 election. As Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Biden occupied the same position now held by Grassley. Emphasizing Biden’s honesty and sincerity, the Iowa senator put forth eight “Biden Rules” to guide the Senate during the nomination process.

“The Biden Rules recognize ‘the framers intended the Senate to take the broadest view of its constitutional responsibility. The Biden Rules recognize the wisdom of those presidents – including another lawyer and former state lawmaker from Illinois — who exercised restraint by not submitting a Supreme Court nomination before The People had spoken.

The Biden Rules recognize the court can operate smoothly with eight members for some time, and ‘the cost of such a result, the need to re-argue three or four cases that will divide the Justices four to four, are quite minor compared to the cost that a nominee, the President, the Senate, and the Nation would have to pay for what assuredly would be a bitter fight.’

The Biden Rules recognize that under these circumstances, ‘[the President] should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not name a nominee until after the November election is completed.’

The Biden Rules recognize that under these circumstances, ‘[It does not] matter how good a person is nominated by the President.’ The Biden Rules recognize that ‘once the political season is under way … 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 is central to the process.’

The Biden Rules recognize that ‘Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the President, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself.’

The Biden Rules recognize that under these circumstances, ‘the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.’”

Grassley closed his statement by saying: “If the President of the United States insists on submitting a nominee under these circumstances, Senator Biden, my friend from Delaware, the man who sat at a desk across the aisle and at the back of this Chamber for more than 35 years, knows what the Senate should do.”
Here's the video of Biden in 1992:
It might be noted in passing that Senator (now Vice-President) Biden may well be, among those still living, one of the men most responsible for the ugliness and polarization of our modern politics. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork, one of the most eminently qualified jurists in the nation, to serve on the Supreme Court. Biden presided over hearings in which Senator Ted Kennedy and others savaged Bork, ultimately resulting in his rejection by the full senate.

It was the first time in our nation's history that a president's nominee for the Court was rejected, not for reasons of character or qualification, but simply because his judicial philosophy did not suit the majority party nor their special interest friends and donors. Ever since the Democrats tarnished a good man (and did it again to Clarence Thomas in 1991) there's been a deep antipathy between the two parties, an antipathy which has been exacerbated under Barack Obama.