On Thursday, March 24, 2016, Merrick Garland’s nomination by President Barack Obama to the United States Supreme Court was defended by Vice President Joe Biden. In a speech at noon (EDT) at Georgetown Law School, Biden defended the right of President Obama to make such a nomination during the last year of his term.
The speech was intended to blunt criticism from the both Republicans in the Senate and those running for president that the nomination should not be made and since made, should be placed on hold. The current election cycle has been added to this debate. In particular, a so-called Republican rule named the “Biden Rule”, has been invoked many times by opponents of the nomination.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, from the floor of the Senate, said, “The Biden rule supports what the Senate is doing today, underlining that what we’re talking about is a principle and not a person. So here’s our view…the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”
The rule traces its origin to a June 25, 1992, speech made by Biden when he was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. At that time, Republican George H.W. Bush was the president and Biden averred that Bush should not fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year, claiming the pragmatic effect of such a postponement. The Republicans have used this incantation as the rationale for opposing the Garland nomination. Biden is seeking to clarify these remarks made almost a quarter of a century ago that have had an affect on President Obama’s action.
During the speech, broadcast on C-SPAN, Biden stressed that “the American people deserve a fully staffed Supreme Court of nine”. Biden was concerned that “the longer the high court vacancy remains unfilled, the more serious a problem we face”. In attempting to clarify his 1992 comments, he went on to state that, “In my time as the ranking Democrat or as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee … I was responsible for eight justices and nine nominees to the Supreme Court — some I supported, I voted against a lot of others.” Biden stressed reciprocity as he attacked Republicans who are slamming the president for offering the nomination while simultaneously clearing up his name as it is has become associated with the Biden rule. The Vice President claimed that his comments were taken out of context and being politically used for this made-up rule.
Garland was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in April 1997. He became Chief Judge on February 12, 2013. According to his biography on the court’s website, Garland graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1974 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977.
His name was floated once before in 2010 when John Paul Stevens retired from the Supreme Court. Analysis at that time suggested that the conservatives would support him, and the liberals would oppose him. In contrast, Garland’s nomination was defended by Vice President Joe Biden.
On March 24, 2016, the Clerk of the Court for the D.C. Circuit released a statement regarding Garland. The statement read: “As a consequence of his Supreme Court nomination, Chief Judge Garland will cease participating in cases and matters but will continue his administrative duties as Chief Judge and as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States.”
By Bob Reinhard
Edited by Cathy Milne & Jeanette Smith
Mediaite.com: Shock! Mitch McConnell Cites Biden Rule in Refusing to Consider Merrick Garland
NY Times: C-Span 2 Video: Joe Biden Argued For Delaying Supreme Court Picks In 1992
C-SPAN: Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at Georgetown Law, March 24, 2016
NY Times: Joe Biden Argued For Delaying Supreme Court Picks In 1992
The Hill: Garland Will Sit Out Cases During Nomination
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