Three years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, claiming President Barack Obama had no right to fill a court vacancy in an election year ― a standard he has since said he wouldn’t uphold if a Republican were in office.
That brazen act, aided by a “nuclear” rule change that lowered the vote threshold for advancing a Supreme Court nominee, allowed President Donald Trump to appoint conservative Neil Gorsuch to the stolen seat a year later.
Now, former Vice President Joe Biden says he’d be open to nominating Garland to the Supreme Court again if given the chance.
“I think we should have been a whole heck of a lot harder on [Mitch McConnell],” the 2020 presidential candidate conceded in an interview with the Iowa Starting Line on Friday.
Biden did not reflect on one glaring downside of a Garland nomination: the judge’s age. Garland would be 68 when the next president takes office, nearly 15 years older than Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, and more than 12 years older than Trump’s second, Brett Kavanaugh. While increasingly far-right conservatives have taken control of the Supreme Court for potentially a generation, a Garland nomination would likely have a shorter and therefore smaller effect.
“I have pretty good relationships on both sides of the aisle,” Biden added, recalling the dialogue around Garland at the time. “I’d say, ‘What are you doing, you’re setting a horrible precedent here.’ And the answer was, ‘I know Joe, but if I go, I’m in a red state, if I go ahead and just call for a hearing, the Koch Brothers will drop five, ten million dollars on my race.’”
“That’s nothing about political courage, it’s a reality,” Biden added.
Speaking of Garland, Biden said he’d certainly consider nominating the judge again, calling him “a first-rate person.” Garland continues to hold his post as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often called the second most powerful court in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Trump has been packing the courts at a breakneck pace thanks to McConnell’s efforts to keep as many vacancies open as possible during the Obama years. The Senate has approved lifetime judgeships for several nominees the American Bar Association has deemed “not qualified.”