Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley announced yesterday that he, along with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will meet with President Obama next week to discuss a Supreme Court replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The pair of senators released a joint statement, calling it a “welcome” opportunity to also “further discuss matters of mutual interest, like the drug epidemic that’s tearing communities apart across our country.”
In the statement they said, “We look forward to reiterating to [the President] directly that the American people will be heard and the next Supreme Court justice will be determined once the elections are complete and the next President has been sworn into office.”
In defense of their move to hold any name the President submits until after the election year, Republicans, including Grassley, have used a speech Vice President Joe Biden delivered in 1992 as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Monday, speaking in the Senate, Grassley made lengthy reference to that 1992 speech and compiled a list of rules which he calls the “Biden Rules,” which argue for postponing the Supreme Court nominee process until after an election.
Among the rules Grassley shared is Biden’s assertion that the court can temporarily function with eight members and that “the cost of such a result, the need to re-argue three or four cases that will divide the Justices four to four, are quite minor compared to the cost that a nominee, the President, the Senate, and the Nation would have to pay for what assuredly would be a bitter fight.”
Grassley also cites Biden’s statement that, “Once the political season is under way … 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 is central to the process.”
Further, per Biden, “The Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”
Grassley called Vice President Biden “a friend” and said, “If the President of the United States insists on submitting a nominee under these circumstances, Senator Biden … knows what the Senate should do. And, I believe, in his heart of hearts, he understands why it must.”
The recently resurfaced Biden speech also contained a fierce history of Supreme Court nominations, which Grassley quoted, with references to confirmation fights going back to 1836 that made the case against a pre-election process.
But surprisingly, Grassley also hinted at an interesting precedent set by a famous Republican president that could open the door for a lame duck nomination from Obama:
“[Biden] emphasized that in four vacancies that arose during a presidential election year, the President exercised restraint and withheld from making a nomination until after the election. One of those Presidents was Abraham Lincoln. Ironically, like President Obama, our 16th President was a lawyer and called Illinois home. But unlike our current President, Abraham Lincoln didn’t feel compelled to submit a nomination before the people had spoken in November of 1864.”
Grassley is running for his seventh Senate term this year.