Sen. Kaine: Not Biden’s Responsibility to Answer Court-Packing Questions

‘It’s not his business’

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HEMMER: “I want to bring in Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2016. Senator, welcome back and good day to you.”

KAINE: “Hey Bill, good to be with you.”

HEMMER: “Why won’t he answer that question?”

KAINE: “Well, I haven’t asked him, but I have a pretty good idea, Bill. Because it’s not his business. The Constitution gives no power to the president or vice president to pack the court. I heard Senator Ernst say Joe needs to say he won’t pack the court. It’s not a presidential responsibility. Congress, according to Article I of the Constitution, sets the composition. So that’s why it’s not even part of the campaign plan.”

HEMMER: “But he could offer — he could offer an opinion of sorts, and it appears that Senator Biden — one moment — had a very different view of this some 40 years ago. This is from 1983.”

[Clip starts]

BIDEN: “President Roosevelt clearly had the right to send to the United States Senate and the United States Congress a proposal to pack the court. It was totally within his right to do that. He violated no law. He was legalistically absolutely correct, but it was a bonehead idea. It was a terrible, terrible mistake to make.”

[Clip ends]

HEMMER: “So in the year 2020, not so boneheaded anymore.”

KAINE: “Well, you haven’t heard Joe Biden say he would send a plan to the court. I don’t think this is a matter for the president at all. Here’s what’s going on, Bill. I have been in the Senate since 2013 and Republicans have made two changes to the way the court is composed, momentous changes. They’re about to make a third. The first was, they refused to entertain the nomination of Merrick Garland, depriving President Obama in historic way of being able to fill a position. We urged them not to do that. We said it would come around and be a problem later, they did it anyway. Second, we used to require that a Supreme Court justice gets 60 votes, a bipartisan measure of support, and we thought that was a good idea. Democrats thought that was a good idea. The Republicans changed that to elevate Neil Gorsuch to the court. And now they’ve got a third one they want to do, having promised the American public that the new rule is in a presidential year, let the people decide, let the people pick the president and the Senate and don’t fill a vacancy, they are going to violate their own promise. Look, we have no court packing plan. I’m in discussions about this all the time. Our plan is, hold the Republicans to their word. Please, just follow the promise you made to your colleagues and the American public.”

HEMMER: “Just seems that the question is going to keep coming back to them over the next three — quickly, sir —“

KAINE: “I just hope that you guys will ask Republicans the question of why they’re not following their promise.”

HEMMER: “Do you see Judge Barrett becoming Justice Barrett or anything getting in her way?”

KAINE: “If the Republicans are bound and determined to break their promise to rush somebody onto the court to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, she will have the votes before November 3rd. We’re hoping hearings might persuade some to think better of it.”

HEMMER: “Tim Kaine, thank you for time. They get underway tomorrow morning with the questions and answers at 9:30 Eastern. We will cover then. Thank you, Senator, for coming on today.”

KAINE: “You bet, Bill. Glad to.”

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