Pickering needed a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote to send his nomination (with a positive, neutral, or even negative recommendation) to the full Senate. Later, Pickering needed Democrats to stand against unprecedented filibusters, even if they ultimately voted against him. Both times, Biden made overtures he would help Pickering; both times, Biden folded under political pressure.Read the full column here: Biden's role in Pickering ordeal
A number of Mississippians were close to Biden, his staff, and his brother Jim. Former Governor William Winter and other supporters planned a trip to visit Biden in Washington DC to discuss the Pickering nomination. Biden sent word the trip was unnecessary. Pickering thought this a positive development, until the next shoe dropped: the Democratic offer of an unacceptable deal.
Judge Pickering's son, Congressman Chip Pickering, was in a redistricting fight which combined his district with that of Congressman Ronnie Shows. How the district was drawn would determine advantage in the election between the incumbents. Word came that Biden's vote could come more easily, if Chip would not oppose the Democrats' redistricting plan, and would guarantee Pickering's replacement on the federal district bench would be black.
Judge Pickering scoffed at the deal, "We quit child sacrifice a long time ago." He wrote, "There was no consideration of Chip caving on redistricting. There was no opposition to an African American as my replacement. I believe the Mississippi federal bench needs more diversity....There was a willingness for this to happen, but unwillingness to do a 'quid pro quo'."
Even without the deal, it seemed Biden might still be the necessary cross-over Democrat to get Pickering to the full Senate.
Biden claimed the White House was pressuring him and responded by opposing Pickering.
In his book, Pickering suggests other motives, "First, he wanted to preserve his option to run for president... he didn't want to be the only potential Democrat candidate for president to alienate the Far Left groups by helping get me to the floor. Second, he and his trial lawyer friends from Mississippi had a falling out, removing their influence in his decision-making."
Publically and privately, Biden did not believe Pickering a bad nomination. He rejected racial criticisms of Pickering as well as denying accusations of inequitable sentencing. In private, he told supporters he thought Pickering a good judge who deserved a vote. Biden even approached Senator Trent Lott and told him while he could not vote to confirm Pickering, he would vote to end a filibuster. Biden later confirmed this with the press.
When Republicans regained control of the Senate, Bush re-nominated Pickering, and his nomination went to the full Senate. Biden crawfished again. He claimed he couldn't support Pickering because the White House should not have re-nominated him after the committee failed to act the first time. How Biden expected to keep his commitment to Lott to oppose a filibuster of Pickering, without Pickering being re-nominated, is a question only a lawyer could love.
Biden bent to political pressure rather than doing what he thought was right. He chose party over principle. In the grand scheme, Pickering's nomination was a minor battle. But in the character of Joe Biden, we see a failure to exhibit the courage necessary to honor a commitment to do the right thing.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Joe Biden's role in Pickering's confirmation
Now that Senator Joe Biden (D-Del) has been selected to run for Vice-President on the Democratic ticket, it is a good time to revisit his role in the confirmation battles over Judge Charles Pickering. My column this week in the Neshoba Democrat discusses Biden's role as recounted in Pickering's two books. Here are some excerpts of the column: