Vice President Joe Biden has criticized Senate Republicans' plan to prevent President Obama from filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, saying in an interview last week that he thinks Republicans “don’t believe” the strategy “makes sense.”
But when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 1992, Biden suggested Democrats should “seriously consider” not holding confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee put forward by President George H.W. Bush if a justice were to retire in the final months of the presidential election year.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling hearings on the nomination, until after the political campaign season is over,” Biden said in a floor address on June 25, 1992, about reforming the Supreme Court confirmation process.
Biden claimed that his proposal was not "an attempt to save the seat on the Court in the hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it," a charge Democrats have leveled at Republicans over the past week.
He also said the cost of keeping the court split 4-4 would be "quite minor" compared to the "bitter fight" that would ensue if the president tried pushing through a nominee.
In a statement released by the vice president's office, Biden downplayed his 1992 remarks. "Some critics say that one excerpt of my speech is evidence that I oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year," he said. "This is not an accurate description of my views on the subject.
"In the same statement critics are pointing to today, I urged the Senate and White House to work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended," he continued. "That remains my position today."
Biden concluded by saying his record as Judiciary Committee Chairman "is hard to beat."
"During my career on the Judiciary Committee, I ensured the prompt and fair consideration of nine Supreme Court Justices and the current Senate has a constitutional duty to do the same," he said.
While Republicans -- most notably Sen. Chuck Grassley, the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- have criticized Biden's stance in light of his 1992 comments in 1992, several top GOP senators previously voiced support for positions at odds with their current opposition to confirming a Supreme Court nominee in the final months of the Obama administration.