Former vice president Joe Biden said in an interview published Friday that he would consider renominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and lamented that he wasn’t tougher on Republican Senate leaders for blocking Garland’s first nomination.
President Barack Obama nominated Garland in March 2016 to fill a vacancy on the court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold a hearing or a vote on Garland’s nomination, arguing that, because it was an election year, the next president should fill the vacancy.
Asked by Iowa Starting Line if he’d be open to nominating Garland again if elected president next year, Biden said, “Sure, I would.”
“By the way, he’s a first-rate person,” Biden said of Garland, who currently serves as the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Biden, who was Obama’s vice president at the time of Garland’s nomination, also said that “we should have been a whole heck of a lot harder” on McConnell.
He said that in his efforts to lobby GOP senators on the nomination, several said they were worried about drawing primary challengers if they advocated moving forward.
“I have pretty good relationships on both sides of the aisle,” Biden told the Iowa-based publication. “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.”
Biden was referring to a pair of prolific Republican donors.
Garland’s nomination expired after Obama left office. Trump went on fill the Scalia vacancy with Neil M. Gorsuch in a move that infuriated Democrats.
During the interview, Biden also voiced opposition to expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court, as some Democrats have suggested, as a way to mitigate the impact of Trump’s picks of Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“No, I’m not prepared to go on and try to pack the court, because we’ll live to rue that day,” he said.
Biden’s plans were criticized by the liberal group Demand Justice.
“Garland is a fine judge and deserved to be confirmed to the court in 2016, but by 2021, he will be 68 years old,” said Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director. “Renominating him, while Donald Trump continues to stock the federal bench with young conservatives, would be another sign of how Democrats are utterly outmatched on this issue.”