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The White House on Tuesday insisted Vice President Biden’s 1992 comments about stopping Supreme Court nominations in an election year won’t sidetrack President Obama’s efforts to get a nominee confirmed.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Biden’s record as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee should be used as the measuring stick for where he stands on Supreme Court nominations.
“We can spend a lot of time throwing quotes back and forth,” Earnest said.
Asked whether he would say the comments will hurt Obama, Earnest said: “I would not, precisely because of Vice President Biden’s record when he served on the Judiciary Committee.”
Video surfaced Monday of Biden giving a speech on the Senate floor in 1992 in which he said then-President George H.W. Bush should wait until after the elections that fall to fill a hypothetical Supreme Court vacancy.
Republicans pounced on the remarks, using them to justify their refusal to consider any nominee from Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Biden said in a statement Monday night his remarks were taken out of context. He pointed out that he said later in the speech he would consider a nominee put forth by Bush if he or she was a moderate and if the president consulted with members of the Senate.
Earnest also pointed out that Biden, as a senator, voted for Anthony Kennedy, then-President Ronald Reagan’s nominee to the Supreme Court, in 1988.
He also noted that the vice president allowed the high court nomination of Clarence Thomas to proceed to the floor in 1991 without a formal recommendation from the judiciary panel.
“We actually want the Republicans in the Senate to do precisely as Vice President Biden did when he served in the Senate,” the spokesman said.
“That is exactly the kind of commitment to the functioning of the institution of the United States Senate we’d like to see from Republicans.”