On February 13, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. 2016 was a presidential election year, and Scalia’s death occurred nine months prior to that election.
President Barack Obama nominated a moderate federal judge, Merrick Garland, to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a confirmation hearing. McConnell said:
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
And in something so ironic that if it appeared in a political novel, your reaction would be that it was too contrived to be believable, McConnell invoked the so-called “Biden Rule” as further justification for why the Senate would not consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court in an election year.
Yes, the “Biden Rule,” as in then Vice President Joe Biden and the current Democratic opponent running against Donald Trump.
Then Senator Biden argued in a speech in June 1992 that President George H.W. Bush should wait until after the election to appoint a replacement if a Supreme Court seat became vacant during the summer of an election year.
McConnell used Biden’s argument from that 1992 speech to explain why, in 2016, he intended to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in an election year.
“The Senate will continue to observe the Biden Rule so that the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.”
Fast forward four years.
Last night, after the news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away, and only a month and a half before the 2020 presidential election, that same Mitch McConnell is singing a very different song:
Well, Mitch, it’s time to invoke the real Biden Rule. After learning last night of RBG’s death, Biden said this:
“… the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.”
Mitch McConnell is the personification of hypocrisy and he should not be permitted to get away with this. But given the actions over the last four years of the spineless, soulless Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, he probably will.