Grassley: Unlikely that Trump, McConnell would want to follow 'Biden Rule'

By Max Greenwood - 05/11/18 12:37 PM EDT

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Friday said it's unlikely President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) would want to uphold an informal rule against Senate consideration of Supreme Court nominees in a presidential election year.

Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" that he personally would abide by the so-called "Biden Rule" — named after former senator and Vice President Joe Biden — if a Supreme Court vacancy opened in 2020.

But asked if Trump would want to follow the precedent, Grassley said he would not.

"I'd follow that. That would be just the 12 months, or let's say the 10 months, before the election 2020. No, he wouldn't agree with that," Grassley said of Trump.

Asked if McConnell would want to follow the rule, Grassley replied: "No, he would not agree with it."

Republicans invoked the "Biden Rule" in 2016, after then-President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland never received a hearing in the Senate, because Republicans argued at the time that the next president should get to fill the vacant seat.

Democrats bitterly protested that Republicans were simply looking for an excuse to deny Obama a Supreme Court nominee that was rightfully his. To this day, they say the seat was "stolen."

Trump tapped Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the seat shortly after taking office. He was confirmed in April 2017, with only three Democrats backing his nomination.

Speculation has swirled over the past year that a sitting Supreme Court justice — widely rumored to be Justice Anthony Kennedy — could soon retire, creating another vacancy for Trump to fill.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, Grassley said that, if there is a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, Republicans want to fill it before the November midterm elections.

"I just hope that if there is going to be a nominee, I hope it’s now or within two or three weeks, because we’ve got to get this done before the election," Grassley said.

"So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday."