WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday continued the administration's effort to make the case for Senate action on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, saying in a new video provided to BuzzFeed News that Senate inaction "has never happened before" with such a nominee.
"Folks, there's already enough dysfunction in Washington, D.C.," Biden says. "Now is not the time to spread that dysfunction to the Supreme Court of the United States of America."
Calling Obama's nominee, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, "one of America's sharpest legal minds," Biden focuses most of the five-minute video discussing his time in the Senate, the current Senate leadership's position that there will not be hearings or a vote on the nomination, and the possible effects of inaction.
Biden, reiterating many of the points made in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center this past week, notes that he was chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, presiding over eight justices and nine nominees. Each of those nominees got a hearing from the Judiciary Committee, and, Biden says in the video, "Every nominee ... got an up-or-down vote by the Senate. Not much of the time, not most of the time, every single time."
Biden, however, has faced significant criticism and claims of hypocrisy from Republicans, who point to a speech Biden gave in June 1992, when he said, "It is my view that if the president ... presses an election-year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the campaign season is over." While there was no vacancy at that time, and while others have pointed to the broader context of Biden's 1992 speech, Republicans have taken to calling that portion of Biden's remarks "the Biden Rule" and using it as a justification for their position today.
Although not specifically referencing those comments, Biden does respond to them.
"The only rule I ever followed as chairman was the Constitution's clear rule on advice and consent. That's the rule being violated today by the Senate Republicans," Biden says. "Nobody is suggesting that the senators have to vote yes on our nominee. Voting no is always an option."
Holding no hearings or vote when presented with a Supreme Court nominee, Biden says, "has never happened before."
Biden goes on to describe the "consequences" for people across the country: the possibility of tie votes — which would allow lower court rulings to stand. "Your freedom of speech, your freedom to practice your faith, your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, all could depend on where you happen to live," Biden says.
The vice president ends on what has become the administration's key line during the nomination fight, saying, "We all have to do our job, including the U.S. Senate."