Joe Biden Slams 'Biden Rule,' Calls for Consideration of Merrick Garland to SCOTUS

"There is no 'Biden Rule.' It doesn't exist," the vice president said.

ByABC News
March 24, 2016, 3:25 PM

— -- Vice President Joe Biden called on Senate Republicans today to consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, while also defending his past comments that Republicans have used to defend their move to deny Obama the ability to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Biden said Republicans have not offered any "substantive criticism" of Garland, a moderate that Republicans senators have praised in the past.

"You've heard no one question his integrity, you've heard no one question his scholarship," Biden said in a speech at Georgetown University.

The vice president ripped the so-called "Biden Rule" that Republicans have evoked consistently since Scalia's death: Comments that Biden made as a senator in June of 1992 calling for the Senate to "seriously consider" not holding confirmation hearings for any Supreme Court nominee until after that year’s presidential election.

"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," Biden said at the time.

"It's frankly ridiculous," Biden said today. "There is no 'Biden Rule.' It doesn't exist."

He accused Republicans of cherry-picking from his speech, and said his suggestion was merely a hypothetical.

"Because there was no vacancy after the [Clarence] Thomas confirmation, we can't know what the president and the Senate might have done," he said. "But here's what we do know: every time as the ranking member or the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I was responsible for eight justices and nine total nominees to the Supreme Court -- more than, I hate to say this, anyone alive."

He then groaned and crossed himself, to laughter from his audience.

"Ugh, I can't be that old," he said.

The former senator openly worried about the effect the GOP strategy would have on the public's low regard for Washington and an increasingly dysfunctional Congress.

"I've been here a long time ... but I've never seen it like this," he said.

Biden also accused Republicans of violating the "letter" and "spirit" of the Constitution by denying Garland a hearing or vote, though GOP leaders have argued that the Constitution does not mandate either.

"The American people should be provided an opportunity to weigh in on whether the court should move in a more liberal direction for a generation, dramatically impacting the rights and individual freedoms we cherish as Americans," Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement after Biden's speech.

Fifty-three percent of Americans want the Senate to hold a vote on Garland, according to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, while 42 percent of Americans want the next president to fill Scalia's seat.

While a handful of Republican senators -- including Grassley -- are willing to meet with Garland, GOP Senate leaders and a majority of the conference are against holding confirmation hearings or a vote for Obama's nominee.