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Senator Mitch McConnell responds to nomination

Below the jump the blog reproduces the transcript of Senator Mitch McConnell’s response on the Senate floor to Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The transcript is also available through the senator’s webpage.

The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country, so of course the American people should have a say in the Court’s direction.

It is a President’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a President and withhold its consent.

As Chairman Grassley and I declared weeks ago, and reiterated personally to President Obama, the Senate will continue to observe the Biden Rule so that the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.

The American people may well elect a President who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next President may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.

Let me remind colleagues what Vice President Biden said when he was Judiciary Chairman here in the Senate:

‘It would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is under way, 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 is central to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me…we will be in deep trouble as an institution. Others may fret that this approach would leave the Court with only eight members for some time, but as I see it…the cost of such a result — the need to reargue 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 would assuredly be a bitter fight, no matter how good a person is nominated by the President…’

Consider that last part. Then-Senator Biden said that the cost to the nation would be too great no matter who the President nominates. President Obama and his allies may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person, but as I just noted, his own Vice President made clear it’s not. The Biden Rule reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle, not a person.

It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election — which is the type of thing then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Biden was concerned about. The Biden Rule underlines that what the President has done with this nomination would be unfair to any nominee, and more importantly the rule warns of the great costs the President’s action could carry for our nation.

Americans are certain to hear a lot of rhetoric from the other side in the coming days, but here are the facts they’ll keep in mind:

  • The current Democratic Leader said the Senate is not a rubber stamp, and he noted that the Constitution does not require the Senate to give presidential nominees a vote.
  • The incoming Democratic Leader did not even wait until the final year of George W. Bush’s term to essentially tell the Senate not to consider any Supreme Court nominee the President sent.
  • The ‘Biden Rule’ supports what the Senate is doing today, underlining that what we’re talking about is a principle not a person.

So here’s our view. Instead of spending more time debating an issue where we can’t agree, let’s keep working to address the issues where we can.

We just passed critical bipartisan legislation to help address the heroin and prescription opioid crisis in our country. Let’s build on that success. Let’s keep working together to get our economy moving again and make our country safer, rather than endlessly debating an issue where we don’t agree.

As we continue working on issues like these, the American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue. So let’s give them a voice. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next President nominates, whoever that might be.

Recommended Citation: Andrew Hamm, Senator Mitch McConnell responds to nomination, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 16, 2016, 7:31 PM),