Supreme Court Standoff

“Behind the Supreme Court Standoff ” (summer 2016) calls the stalemate over the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland “without precedent.” Not so. In 1992, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Biden, calling for a “different standard” during an election year, said his committee should consider not holding hearings if President George H.W. Bush named a Supreme Court nominee. (This became known as the “Biden Rule.”) In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama echoed Sen. Charles Schumer in promising to prevent any new nominations by President George W. Bush from being confirmed, period—despite it being a full year and a half before the next presidential election. When Samuel Alito was nominated, Obama wanted to raise confirmation approval from the traditional 51 votes to 60. The Constitution’s Article II, Section 2, includes the words that the Senate decides “whether” to act or not. Thus Congress’ Advise and Consent responsibility includes withholding consent as well as giving it and is unrestricted in this regard.

—Richard Eggers ’60, Longmont, Colo.