The Washington Times

A contradictory Biden

Published March 1, 2005

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was asked a direct question about filibustering judicial nominees, and Mr. Biden offered a direct answer. The problem was that Mr. Biden's answer directly contradicted his votes throughout 2003 and 2004.
    Tim Russert set the stage by quoting Mr. Biden's philosophy about judicial nominations. "I think the advice-and-consent responsibility of the Senate," Mr. Biden had previously declared, "does not permit us to deprive the president of the United States from being able to appoint that person or persons who have a particular point of view unless it can be shown that their temperament does not fit the job, they are morally incapable or unqualified for the job, or that they have committed crimes of moral turpitude." For nominations of judges to district and circuit courts, Mr. Biden reaffirmed that philosophy.
    Based on that clearly enunciated view, Mr. Russert asked Mr. Biden, "If someone has a conservative view, then why would you try to block him from being voted on in the Senate?" Mr. Biden replied, "I don't think we should try to block him [from] being voted on in the Senate." Yet, that is precisely what Mr. Biden has been doing. In 2003 and 2004, the Democrats filibustered 10 circuit-court nominees. For each nominee, Republicans sought to invoke cloture, which would have ended the filibusters and allowed an up-or-down vote. Mr. Biden voted against cloture for nine of the 10 filibustered nominees.
    Altogether, there were 20 cloture votes on the 10 circuit-court nominees. Mr. Biden was absent for one. He voted against cloture on 18 of the remaining 19 attempts. In doing so, he was complicit in preventing precisely what he claimed to support in his response to Mr. Russert. His 18 votes against cloture involving nine of the filibustered nominees constituted successful efforts "to block [them from] being voted on in the Senate" -- something Mr. Biden said "I don't think we should try."
    Interestingly, Mr. Biden's finely honed judicial philosophy quoted by Mr. Russert was enunciated in 1979. At the time, there was a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the Senate. Mr. Biden's comments were made in the context of ultra-liberal Rep. Abner Mikva's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is widely considered to be the most influential and powerful court below the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Mikva received his up-or-down vote and was approved. In 2003 and 2004, there were seven cloture votes for former Texas Supreme Court Justice Miguel Estrada, who would have been the first Hispanic judge to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. On each of the six occasions he was present, Mr. Biden voted against cloture, denying Judge Estrada an up-or-down vote. The inconsistency was glaring, but Mr. Russert missed the opportunity to point that out.

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