Grassley: I’ll Keep Open An Election Year SCOTUS Vacancy, But Trump, McConnell Won’t Agree

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa,  makes a statement during the second day of a confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Cliff Owen/FR170079 AP

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he would follow what Republican in 2016 dubbed the “Biden rule” — that Supreme Court vacancies open within a year before a presidential election shouldn’t be filled until after the presidential election — if it happened before the 2020 election. He added that President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not agree with the Biden rule if the vacancy opened under Trump.

Grassley’s comments came during an appearance on Iowa Public Radio Friday, where he was asked  if Trump would agree with holding the seat open for a vacancy that occurred in 2019 or 2020.

“It would be the one year of the ’20, if you want to follow the pattern of the Biden rule, and I’d follow that. That would just be the 12 months or, let’s say, the 10 months before the election 2020, no he wouldn’t agree with that,” Grassley said.

He was asked if McConnell would agree.

“No, he would not agree with that,” Grassley said.

Republicans conjured up the “Biden rule” when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, and they sought to block President Obama’s nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland. Grassley, whose committee oversees judicial confirmation proceedings, did not grant Garland a hearing. McConnell released a statement declaring that Republicans would keep the seat open through the 2016 election hours after Scalia’s death.

They titled the justification the “Biden rule” because then-Vice President Joe Biden, when he was a Senate Judiciary chairman, gave a speech discouraging then-President Bush from filling any hypothetical vacancies on the court before an election. Before Scalia’s death, there wasn’t much precedent — if any — for a vacancy opening up the year before an election when the party opposite the President control the Senate.

A McConnell spokesman declined to comment, while the White House didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry.

TPM reached out to Grassley’s spokesman on the Judiciary Committee Taylor Foy when a Iowa Public Radio producer first previewed the comments in a tweet.

Foy said that Grassley was offering “his opinion of how folks may feel about the Biden rule.”

“He certainly wasn’t speaking for the President or the Majority Leader,” Foy said.

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