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March 3, 2016

Barrasso: Democrats Created Precedent for Supreme Court Nominations

“In 1992, Senator Joe Biden came down to the floor of the Senate to explain his rule – the Biden Rule - for Supreme Court nominations. He said that once the presidential election is under way, ‘action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.’”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor highlighting the precedent Senate Democrats set for Supreme Court nominations. 

Transcript of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“There has been a great deal of discussion here on the floor of the Senate about the current vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. 

“Democrats want to fill it immediately. 

“Republicans are more interested in making sure that the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on this important decision. 

“This is a lifetime appointment – a lifetime appointment  – and the stakes could not be higher for our country. 

“So it is perfectly reasonable to wait for the next president to make this critical nomination.

“It is also exactly the precedent that Democrats in this body - in the Senate - created for situations just like this one. 

“First of all, let’s remember that it is not uncommon for there to be a vacancy on the court. 

“Sometimes a seat can be empty for even more than a year. 

“There are eight justices now. Two of them have already said that they can handle the work that’s available in front of them now with this seat vacant. Justice Alito said so, as did Justice Breyer. 

“Now, Justice Breyer, of course, was appointed by President Clinton.

“When Justice Breyer was asked the other day about the death of Justice Scalia, he said, ‘We’ll miss him, but we’ll do our work.’ 

“He said, ‘For the most part, it will not change.’ 

“So there is no urgency to fill this vacancy on the Supreme Court right now. 

“Second, we should acknowledge that the process of nominating and confirming a Supreme Court justice has become very partisan. It’s also become very political. 

“Many Democrats in the Senate have spent the last three decades undermining the way that these appointments used to be made. 

“It started in 1987, when Senate Democrats launched an all-out assault against the nomination of Judge Robert Bork. 

“It got so bad that dictionaries even created a new word. The word was to ‘bork’ someone. 

“It means to obstruct someone ‘by systematically defaming or vilifying’ them. 

“Then in 1992, Senator Joe Biden came down to the floor of the Senate to explain his rule – the Biden Rule - for Supreme Court nominations. 

“He said that once the presidential election is under way, ‘action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.’ 

“That’s the Biden Rule. 

“You can’t get any clearer than that. 

“Joe Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at that time when he announced the Biden Rule. He was not at all worried about having only eight justices for a while. 

“Senator Biden said that a temporary vacancy on the court was ‘quite minor compared to the cost that a nominee, the president, the Senate, and our nation would have to pay for what would assuredly be a bitter fight.’ 

“Well, if the fight would have been bitter in 1992, it would be even worse today. 

“Today we’ve had another 24 years of Democrats continuing to politicize the process. 

“Just days after George W. Bush became president, Senate Democrats vowed that they would use, in their words, ‘whatever means necessary’ to block the president’s judicial nominations. 

“Democrats went so far as to try to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. 

“That was the first time in our history of the United States Senate that they ever tried to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. 

“It was the nomination of Justice Alito in 2006. The Democrats failed. 

“Even though Democrats failed, it set a new precedent. 

“Some of the leaders of that filibuster were: Senator Barack Obama – now president, Senator Hillary Clinton – then the secretary of state and now presidential candidate, and Biden – now vice president of the United States. 

“Senator Reid voted to filibuster, as did current senators, Senator Durbin, Senator Leahy and Senator Schumer. All part of the filibuster of the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Alito by George W. Bush. 

“That’s the history of how our confirmation process became so political. That’s three decades of Democrats politicizing the process. 

“That’s the precedent for where we are today – and those are the rules that we will follow today. 

“On top of all that, President Obama has spent seven years ignoring Congress.

“He has made the confirmation process more confrontational and more contentious every step along the way.

“The president illegally made what he called ‘recess appointments’ to the National Labor Relations Board. 

“He even did it though Congress was not in recess. 

“I use the word ‘illegal’ because the Supreme Court struck down this action by President Obama, and the vote was 9-0 that the president acted illegally. 

“Even Democrats in Congress have said that they think the president has gone too far with some of his executive actions. 

“So it’s clear that Senate Democrats and President Obama have been injecting politics into the confirmation process for many years. 

“Today, they seem to wish that they hadn’t done it.

“Well, these are the rules that they wrote – and these are the standards that they set. 

“The Senate will follow these rules. 

“We should wait until next year to take up this important decision. 

“Let the American people consider it as part of deciding who to support in November.

“Let the new president make this lasting decision without the political influence of the election hanging over it. 

“It is not the job of the United States Senate to rubberstamp the president’s nomination. 

“The job of the Senate is to protect the Constitution and to serve the American people. 

‘That’s the oath that every one of us has taken in this body. 

“We have a process for nominating and confirming justices to the Supreme Court.

“It’s a system that Democrats created, and now they should be willing to follow the rules that they wrote themselves.”