News & Politics

Sen. Chuck Grassley Cites 'Biden Rules' to Justify Blocking Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Monday cited what he dubbed “The Biden Rules” to justify the Republican decision to block any of President Obama’s nominees to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia until after the 2016 election.

In 1992, then-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Joe Biden argued on the Senate floor that if a seat on the Supreme Court opened up, then-President George H.W. Bush “should not, should not name a nominee until after the November election is completed.”

Biden further argued his position to the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr. in 1992:

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has urged President Bush not to fill any vacancy that might open up on the Supreme Court until after the November election.

Warning that any election-year nominee “would become a victim” of a “power struggle” over control of the Supreme Court, Biden said he would also urge the Senate not to hold hearings on a nomination if Bush decided to name someone.


Biden said he had no knowledge of whether any member of the high court planned to resign this year and added that he hoped no one would. But if a vacancy occurred — three of the justices are over 70 years old — he warned that any nominee would face a harrowing experience.

“If someone steps down, I would highly recommend the president not name someone, not send a name up,” Biden said. “If he [Bush] did send someone up, I would ask the Senate to seriously consider not having a hearing on that nominee.”

“Can you imagine dropping a nominee, after the three or four or five decisions that are about to made by the Supreme Court, into that fight, into that cauldron in the middle of a presidential year?” Biden went on. “I believe there would be no bounds of propriety that would be honored by either side. . . . The environment within which such a hearing would be held would be so supercharged and so prone to be able to be distorted.”

Grassley took to the Senate floor yesterday right after Minority Leader Harry Reid disingenuously declared that “respect for the Constitution demanded that the Senate not block the nominee.”

In the interest of Senate collegiality, Grassley emphasized Biden’s honesty and sincerity as he put forth the eight “Biden Rules” to guide the Senate during the nomination process.

Via The Daily Caller:

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 concluded 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. And, I believe, in his heart of hearts, he understands why it must.”