During a speech he delivered on the Senate floor on June 25, 1992, then-Sen. Joe Biden urged his Democratic colleagues to block until after the presidential election any potential Supreme Court nominations President George H.W. Bush might name.
At the time, there were no ongoing nominations, nor were there any vacancies on the Supreme Court bench.
Biden, who was serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just wanted to be sure that the Senate was united in opposing any potential nominee, five months before Bill Clinton won the election and seven months before he was inaugurated.
Here’s what he said:
As a result, 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 Fillmore and 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.
This isn’t the first time Biden blocked a Republican president from nominating a Supreme Court justice, either. He basically wrote the playbook for how to “bork” a nominee, a descriptive verb that now means to publicly pillory a nominee’s reputation to make it politically difficult for senators to vote for him. It’s named, of course, after what he did to Robert Bork.
Perhaps Biden was still upset about his Democratic colleagues’ failed attempt to bork Justice Clarence Thomas, who had been confirmed a few months earlier, in October 1991, despite a united effort throughout the confirmation process to make him into a pariah.
Biden isn’t the only Democrat who fought to block nominees. The Federalist recently detailed 10 other times Democrats vowed to block Republican nominees.
Only now that Democrats are in the minority in the Senate are they pretending the GOP’s decision to block any of Obama’s nominees to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia is completely unprecedented. In fact, it has happened plenty of times in the past.
The full text of Biden’s remarks can be found by searching the Congressional Record of the 102nd Congress. A transcript of his remarks is on page S8853.