Biden: Abandon Confirmation Hearings for Judges

A frustrated Sen. Joe Biden called for just doing away with judicial nomination hearings, since little is learned from them.

Photo: Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.., jokingly puts on a Princeton Tigers cap during Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Supreme Court nominees are so mum about the major legal issues at their Senate confirmation hearings that the hearings serve little purpose and should probably be abandoned, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden said Thursday.

“The system’s kind of broken,” said Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.

“Nominees now, Democrat and Republican nominees, come before the United States Congress and resolve not to let the people know what they think about the important issues,” such as a president’s authority to go to war, said Biden.

As the committee headed into its fourth day of hearings on the Alito nomination, Biden told NBC’s “Today” show that a better solution might be to skip hearings and send nominations straight to the Senate floor for a vote.

“Just go to the Senate floor and debate the nominee’s statements,” the Delaware senator said, “instead of this game.”

That was once standard practice. Until 1925, Supreme Court nominees were not expected to testify before a committee, and their nominations were sent straight to the floor, according to the Senate Historical Office.

This was presumably tongue-in-cheek but it’s a great idea.

Another possibility would be to have senators actually ask questions rather than using the hearings as a platform for grandstanding. That, however, is unlikely.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    It’s been a so so day today and I needed a good belly buster to perk me up for the balance of the day.

    This story did it. Biden is just plain hilarious.

    “The system id kind of broken”

    Hell he is one who helped break it.

    The problem Biden has is that he and his buddy Democrats tried did their level best to bomb Alito and that just plain failed and the voting public got to see first hand just what kind of obstructionists and rear ends they really are. The dems really lost ground with this hearing and they have only themselves to blame with the long winded speaches, name calling, underhanded and downright nasty tactics they used. Kennedy, Schumer, Feingold, Feinstein, and Durbin really gave the Republicand a giant boost with this one.
    I bet they feel real goooood.

  2. No doubt the system is broken, but as Herb says, is it the fault of the nominees or the Senators?

  3. jimbo says:

    It is not a good idea. The Democrats need the hearings to drum up popular opinion that might affect wavering senators in the middle. They struck paydirt with Bork. In the public forum he came across as a pompous idiot. This was seen clearly by the public; they informed their senators; and Bork was dumped. The only thing he left behind was a new verb. The public hearings should be the public’s chance to view a nominee and weigh in on his or her merits. We are talking about a Supreme Court Justice after all. This is too important an issue to be left to paper shuffling. If Harriet Myers had not bowed out, hearings might have been the only thing that stopped her.

    The problems today are two-fold. One is that they don’t have anything on Alioto except that over two decades ago he was a member of an organization that had some other members who wrote things that might be considered racist. The more serious problem that the Democrats have is that their team is Lahey, Kennedy, and Biden. These guys have been around bloviating for years. They have nothing new to say and no new way to say it. In fact they have nothing to see except gibberish. Every time any one of them opens his mouth (or when Biden puts on one of his sh*t-eating grins) they do more damage. Pathetic.