Matt Wade | Wikipedia Commons

Twenty-four years after then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Pa.) declared that the U.S. Senate should no longer proceed with Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions during pres­i­dential election years, Repub­licans suc­cess­fully used that precedent to block former Pres­ident Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Forcing the Democrats to taste their own med­icine not only saved the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, it also secured an orig­i­nalist majority now that Brett Kavanaugh sits on the bench.

The midterm elec­tions gave the GOP a larger Senate majority, but it would be prudent for Pres­ident Trump and con­ser­v­a­tives to obey the “Biden rule.” Should a vacancy on the Supreme Court occur in 2020, the Senate GOP should abstain from pro­ceeding with a replacement nominee. This would further expand Trump’s window of oppor­tunity to cement the high Court’s new con­ser­v­ative majority.

Fol­lowing the Biden rule would not dis­courage base Repub­lican voters from turning out in 2020. In fact, abiding by that precedent might actually benefit the GOP in the upcoming pres­i­dential election. Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions played a critical role in Trump’s victory in 2016, prompting self-iden­tified evan­gelical voters to turn out and secure crucial swing states like Florida, North Car­olina, and Iowa. According to a 2016 Wash­ington Post poll, Trump bested Hillary Clinton by a sig­nif­icant 56 percent among the voters who viewed high Court appoint­ments as the “most important factor.”

The GOP faces a tough Senate map in 2020, and any strain of hypocrisy among Repub­licans could endanger their majority. Repub­licans could face stiff chal­lenges in the Senate races in Arizona and Maine. It would be a mistake for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to disobey the Biden rule because such hypocrisy could stave off inde­pen­dents voters in these important bat­tle­ground races. Main­taining the moral high ground will encourage base Repub­lican voters and maintain enough inde­pendent voters to create a coalition that could save the GOP Senate majority in 2020.

One of writer and political activist Saul Alinsky’s famous “Rules for Rad­icals” was to not resist the rules of the enemy but to make the enemy live up to his own rules instead. It was a coura­geous tactic pulled off by McConnell in 2016 and he should not shy away from doing so again. The Democrats accused the GOP of obstructing the Garland nom­i­nation, revealing their own hypocrisy. Shouldn’t Repub­licans then strive to remain innocent of any similar vio­lation? Such a break in precedent would give Democrats ade­quate ammu­nition to effec­tively use Alinsky’s tactic.

Though another tex­tu­alist jurist on the bench would be an important con­ser­v­ative win, Trump should wait to do so if the oppor­tunity presents itself.

Doyle Wang is a George Wash­ington Fellow and a junior studying Pol­itics.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    ‘Should a vacancy on the Supreme Court occur in 2020, the Senate GOP should abstain from pro­ceeding with a replacement nominee.’

    Non­sense. Trump was elected promising he’d use every oppor­tunity to nom­inate Judicial con­ser­v­a­tives to our Federal Courts. And that’s what his sup­porters expect him to do, not abide by some absurd pro­posal made by Biden 26 (not 24) years ago-in the last year of the George HW Bush Pres­i­dency (sur­prise, sur­prise!).

    Biden is one of the most par­tisan Democrats, he was using that pro­posal to block a late Bush nom­i­nation for the Supreme Court, not out of any sense of bipar­ti­sanship.

    The Democrats are the ones who have ‘weaponized’ our Federal Judi­ciary, so they could get through the Courts what they didn’t dare introduce as leg­is­lation. Con­ser­v­a­tives would be crazy not to use every oppor­tunity we can to fill those seats.

    As for using our ‘bigness’ to encourage GOP voters to get out and vote, the Dems cheat on election ballots every year. They’re very good at ‘har­vesting’ enough ballots 2 weeks after an election to overtake a GOP win on election night. I expect to see more, a lot more, of Democrat election cheating. Repub­licans would be crazy not to use this time when we have a Senate Majority and a Repub­lican Pres­ident to pack the Courts as best we can. The Dems would sure not hes­itate!