NY Daily News distorted Biden's views on use of filibuster


In a February 28 article, the New York Daily News amended and took out of context a remark made by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) on NBC's Meet the Press to falsely suggest that Biden believes "Democrats should allow up or down floor votes on [President] Bush's nominees" in all cases. In fact, Biden reiterated his position opposing the use of filibusters to block judicial nominees merely because they are conservative, but supporting the right to filibuster nominees who do not have "a judicial temperament."

Here's what Biden said on the February 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: If someone has a conservative view, then why would you try to block him from being voted on in the Senate?

BIDEN: I don't think we should try to block him from being voted on in the Senate. Here's the deal. The question is the people I voted on -- against in some of the nine nominees the president sent back up -- not all of them I didn't vote against, but some of them I did -- is because I thought they did not have a judicial temperament, like the justice out of Texas. Now -- but to make it clear, I also sort of set the standard people don't like having been set, saying that for a Supreme Court justice it's a different deal because they're not bound by stare decisis [the doctrine of following legal precedent]. If a district court judge or a circuit court judge says, "I'll be bound by -- even though I have a different view on this issue, that I'll be bound by what the court has said," I'll take them at their word, even though they may have a different personal view, because they can't go beyond what the Supreme Court judgment is. Supreme Court justices, different deal; de novo [judging a matter anew], they can come along and say, "I disagree with the past rulings of the Supreme Court." So it's a different standard for Supreme Court. For the district courts, that's the standard I've applied.

The Daily News article, by staff writer James Gordon Meek, distorted Biden's comments to create the impression that he condemned the use of the filibuster to block any judicial nominees:

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a former Judiciary Committee chairman, said Democrats should allow up or down floor votes on Bush's nominees.

"I don't think we should try to block [them] from being voted on in the Senate," Biden told NBC's Meet the Press.

Meek misrepresented Biden's comments in at least two ways. First, contrary to Meek's assertion, Biden neither said nor implied that Democrats should allow up-or-down Senate votes on all Bush nominees. Second, by inserting the word "them" for "him," Meek changed the category of nominee to which Biden was referring. Biden was referring to a hypothetical "conservative" nominee about whom Russert had asked, saying that a nominee's conservatism does not constitute a basis for denying him or her an up-or-down vote. But by inserting the word "them" for the word Biden actually used -- "him" -- Meek suggested that Biden was talking about all Bush nominees. The full context of Biden's remarks makes clear that he was speaking against filibusters based on a nominee's conservatism but in favor of them for nominees who lack a "judicial temperament."

Posted In
Government, The Judiciary
Joe Biden, 2008 Elections, Filibusters/Nuclear Option
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