While President Barack Obama is tending to international relations in Argentina today, Vice President Joe Biden is speaking at Georgetown University Law Center about Senate Republicans who are blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.
Republicans have circulated a carefully edited video of then-Sen. Biden talking about putting a hold on justices being confirmed during an election. They’re referring to it as “The Biden Rule.” However, Biden was actually talking about encouraging previous presidents to bring forward a consensus moderate candidate, much like what Obama has done with Garland. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Biden confirmed 17 justices in election years.
“My consistent advice to Presidents of both parties has been that they should engage fully in the constitutional process of Advice and Consent,” Biden’s prepared remarks read quoting the Constitution. Biden continues that his understanding is that the Senate must do so as well.
“In my time as the ranking Democrat or as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I was responsible for eight nominees to the Supreme Court—some I supported, others I voted against,” Biden continues. “And in all that time—every nominee was greeted by committee members. Every nominee got a committee hearing. Every nominee got out of the committee to the Senate floor. And every nominee, including Justice Kennedy—in an election year—got an up or down vote by the Senate. Not much of the time. Not most of the time. Every single time,” Biden emphasized.
Listen the full speech below:
“The Framers designed our system to give one Supreme Court the responsibility of resolving conflicts in the lower courts,” the Syracuse University College of Law graduate explains. “If those conflicts are allowed to stand, we end up with a patchwork Constitution inconsistent with equal justice and the rule of law. Federal laws—laws that apply to the whole country—will be constitutional in some parts of the country but unconstitutional in others.”
“The meaning and extent of your federal constitutional rights—from your freedom of speech, to your freedom to follow the teachings of your religious faith, to your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure—all could depend on where you happen to live,” He continues.
“We must make sure that a fully functioning Supreme Court is in a position to address these significant issues, and that geographic happenstance cannot fragment our national unity,” Biden said to the law students. “Alexander Hamilton had the foresight to warn that such fragmented judicial power would create ‘a hydra in government, from which nothing but contradiction and confusion can proceed.’ Even worse, a patchwork Constitution will deepen the gulf between the haves and have-nots. Under a system of laws “national” in name only, the rich and powerful will manipulate geographical differences and game the system.”
“Our democracy rests on the twin pillars of basic fairness and equal justice under law,” Biden explains. “Both those pillars demand that we not trap ordinary Americans in whatever lower courts fate has chosen for them while letting the wealthy and powerful selectively choose the lower courts that best fit their needs and preferences.” He continues saying that the longer the court vacancy remains unfilled the more problems it will cause with “turbulence, confusion, and uncertainty about our safety and security, our liberty and privacy, the future of our children and grandchildren.”
“At times like these,” Biden emphasizes, “We need more than ever to have a fully functioning Supreme Court, a Court that can resolve divisive issues peacefully. Dysfunction and partisanship are bad enough on Capitol Hill. But we can’t let the Senate spread this dysfunction to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
“The President has fully discharged his constitutional obligation,” Biden closes. “Now it is up to the Senate to do the same, as all American expect them to do. They owe it to the American people to consider his nomination and to give him an up or down vote.”