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Joe Biden, 1992: No Supreme Court Pick Until After Election


Vice President Joe Biden spoke out forcefully against appointing a new Supreme Court justice in an election year–in 1992, when he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and George H.W. Bush was running for re-election.

Footage of Biden delivering an emphatic floor speech on the subject on June 25, 1992 was unearthed by C-SPAN on Monday.

Biden argued, in part:

…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 throes of an election year. It is my view that if the President goes the way of Presidents [Millard] Fillmore and [Andrew] 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.

Biden also argued that it would be possible for the Supreme Court to operate without one of its members.

As the United Press International agency reported that day: “Biden conceded that the court might have to operate with a member short this fall, but added, ‘This may be the only course of action that historical practice and practical realism can sustain.’”

Biden added that while it was the president’s “right” to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, it was equally his “right” to oppose and to block them.

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