In the hours and days after the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Democrats quickly raised their voices to condemn any Republican plan to block them from rushing to fill that most crucial vacancy. When Republicans suggested waiting until after the election, Democrats scoffed at them.
But back in 1992 when Vice President Joe Biden was a Delaware senator and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee under President George H.W. Bush, he made a rather vociferous plea for President Bush to hold off on naming a nominee, if and when a vacancy arose, as a "majority of his predecessors" did. At the time of Biden's remarks, there was no empty court seat.
Here is a transcript of Biden's comments, with video following via C-SPAN:
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 throws of an election year.
It is my view that if the president goes in the way of President's 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.
And I sadly predict, Mr. President, that this is going to be one of the bitterest, dirtiest presidential campaigns we will have seen in modern times.
I'm sure, Mr. President, after having uttered these words, some, some will criticize such a decision and say it was nothing more than attempt to save a seat on the court in hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it. But that would not be our intention, Mr. President, if that were the course we were to choose as a Senate to not consider holding hearings till after the elections. Instead, it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. That is what is fair to the nominee and essential to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me, Mr. President, we will be in deep trouble as an institution.