During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield repeatedly dodged questions from host Jake Tapper about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s position on adding justices to the Supreme Court.
Bedingfield and Tapper sparred over the definitional “constitutional” with regards to appointing and confirming appointments to the federal bench, with Bedingfield ultimately calling the topic a “distraction” and “Donald Trump’s game.”
TAPPER: So, Kate, Vice President Biden yesterday again refused to say where he stands on this question of adding justices to the Supreme Court.
I want to play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It’s not constitutional what they’re doing. We should be focused on what’s happening right now.
This court is being packed now by the Republicans, after the vote has already begun. I’m going to stay focused on it, so we don’t take our eyes off the ball here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I want to get to the idea of adding justices to the court in a second. But he said it’s not constitutional, what they’re doing.
How is it not constitutional what they’re doing?
BEDINGFIELD: His point is that the people have an opportunity to weigh in on this constitutional process through their vote.
And we are now in the midst of the election. Millions of people have already cast their votes. And you see that the vast majority of people say that they want the person who wins the election on November 3 to nominate the justice to take this seat.
TAPPER: That’s a poll. That’s not the Constitution.
BEDINGFIELD: So, by trying to — by trying to — that is their constitutional — there’s the constitutional process of advise and consent.
The American people get to have their say by voting for president, by voting for senators.
We are now 23 days from the election.
TAPPER: Right, but it’s not unconstitutional.
BEDINGFIELD: Again, millions of — millions of votes, millions of votes, they’re being — voters are being denied their constitutional right to have a say in this process.
TAPPER: They elected the Senate.
BEDINGFIELD: The Republicans are trying to ram through — are trying to ram through a nominee, who, by the way, is going to change the makeup of the court.
And we see time and time again, poll after poll shows that most Americans vehemently disagree with this. They believe…
TAPPER: Again, Kate, that’s a poll.
BEDINGFIELD: … that the vote should happen on November 3.
TAPPER: That’s not what the word constitutional means.
BEDINGFIELD: That’s the…
TAPPER: Constitutional doesn’t mean, I like it or I don’t like it. It means it’s according to the U.S. Constitution.
There’s nothing unconstitutional about what the U.S. Senate is doing.
BEDINGFIELD: They are being denied — the American people are being denied their opportunity to have a say in who gets this lifetime appointment to the court.
The intention of the process here is for the American people to have a say in who gets — in who makes the nomination, and then who ultimately consents to the nomination.
TAPPER: OK. So…
BEDINGFIELD: And what the Republicans are trying to do is ram this through because they don’t believe they have the electoral support.
That’s — that is a problem. And they are going to try to change the makeup of the court in an effort to do that.
TAPPER: Again, it’s not unconstitutional. I get you don’t like it, but it’s not unconstitutional.
But let me talk about the idea of adding justices to the court, which — which Vice President Biden refuses to give his answer on.
What’s bizarre about it to me is that Biden has already answered this question on whether he supports expanding the court. Take a listen to him in 1983, and then again just a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: President Roosevelt clearly had the right to send to the United States Senate and the United States Congress a proposal to pack the court, but it was a bonehead idea.
It was a terrible, terrible mistake to make.
I would not get into court-packing. We add three justices, next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has it all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Biden opposes adding justices to the court. He has for decades. So, why is he refusing to weigh in on it now?
BEDINGFIELD: Because Donald Trump and the Republicans don’t get to set the terms of this debate.
I mean, this is a distraction that they want to throw out. This is a hypothetical that they want to throw out right now to distract from the fact that they are trying to ram through a nominee who, as I said, is going to change the makeup of the court, against the will of the American people.
They don’t want to talk about that, so they are trying to create a distraction and send folks down a rabbit hole talking about this, when what we should be focused on and what Joe Biden is focused on is the vote on November 3, and making sure that they don’t have the opportunity to ram through a nominee…
TAPPER: Kate, it’s not the Biden…
BEDINGFIELD: … who is going to be the deciding vote.
TAPPER: It’s not the Trump people who invented this question.
BEDINGFIELD: But, look, at one…
TAPPER: Right? The idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court came from the progressive side of the Democratic Party.
It’s just a simple question. He has long been against adding justices to the court. Has he changed his mind, or does he have the same position he’s had since at least 1983?
BEDINGFIELD: But, look, see, I think you only have to look at how hard, for example, Vice President Pence wanted to go at this in the debate last week, rather than answer a question about what his administration would do to protect preexisting conditions.
That — to me, that tells you everything you need to know about what the Republicans are trying to do here. They would rather have this conversation than talk about the fact that they are pushing through a justice who is going to be part of a court that could potentially overturn the Affordable Care Act, that could strip away protections for preexisting conditions…
BEDINGFIELD: … that could rule on a woman’s right to choose, that could rule on equal pay issues.
TAPPER: Yes, we ask Republicans…
BEDINGFIELD: They don’t want to defend that.
TAPPER: I get it. And we ask Republicans those questions.
But we get to ask Democrats questions, too. And this is a simple — it’s a simple question. And it’s one, frankly, that Trump did not invent. It came from the progressives in the Democratic Party.
And I thought it was odd when Vice President Biden said the other day, in response to a reporter’s question, that voters do not deserve an answer on this. Of course voters deserve an answer on his position on every issue.
BEDINGFIELD: Well, we’re not going to play their game.
He’s given an answer. He’s answered the question. I mean, he has probably answered this question 15 times over the course of the last week.
The answer is: I am not going to play Donald Trump’s game.
BEDINGFIELD: I am not going to allow the terms of this debate to shift to a hypothetical that assumes, by the way, that we, the Democrats, are going to lose here.
I mean, that’s really — that’s what’s at the core of this argument they’re making. It assumes that we’re going to lose. Vice President Biden doesn’t accept that. He does not accept that. He’s focused on turning people out to vote, making sure their voice is heard, and making sure that they have a say in who the next Supreme Court justice is.
TAPPER: All right, well, I think a serious policy question is not a game, and I don’t think it’s Trump’s game.
But, Kate Bedingfield, we always appreciate you coming on the show and answering the questions or deftly sidestepping them.
Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, Jake. I appreciate it.