Vice President Joe Biden sat down Rachel Maddow today for a wide-ranging interview, which included his reaction to today’s controversy surrounding Donald Trump and Pope Francis, as well as a detailed discussion on the future of the Supreme Court and the apparent Republican blockade against any potential nominee from President Obama.
Looking ahead to the 2016 election, Rachel asked Biden about today’s uproar involving Trump and the Pontiff, which the vice president – a life-long Roman Catholic – responded to by saying with a laugh, “Pope Francis? Trump? it’s not a hard call for me. It’s not even close.”
Biden added that he would take Trump “seriously” as a national candidate, and the vice president wouldn’t be surprised if the New York developer becomes the Republican Party’s nominee. Echoing remarks the president made earlier this week, however, Biden would be surprised if Trump is elected president.
On the Supreme Court, asked about the Senate GOP’s tactics, Biden paused, said he wanted to “choose his words carefully,” and argued, “I think [Republicans are] intimidated by the dominant element of the Republican Party, the far right. I think it’s the tail wagging the dog. And I think the leadership went out [over the weekend] to make sure they got out ahead of Ted Cruz.” The vice president added that, from his perspective, Senate Republican “don’t believe in their hearts” that their strategy “makes sense.”
Biden lamented the fact that Americans already have a “dysfunctional Congress,” and we “don’t need an institutionally dysfunctional Supreme Court” – the likely result of a 4-4 split among the justices between now and 2017.
In terms of resolving the upcoming standoff over the high court’s vacancy, the vice president said he has “faith” that the president will put forward a qualified nominee who’ll deserve Senate consideration. As for the process itself, Biden reflected on an anecdote from 1987 in which President Ronald Reagan, following the failure of two Supreme Court nominees, met with then-Sen. Biden in the Oval Office, asking, “OK, Joe, who do you want?” The Republican president pulled out a list of potential names and they had a conversation about the prospective justices.
Will something similar happen soon? According to Biden, yes – the vice president told Rachel that Obama would absolutely “reach out” to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), among others, as part of a traditional advice-and-consent process.
And what about chatter on Capitol Hill that Biden himself might be under consideration, as the kind of popular, consensus choice that might earn confirmation?
The vice president acknowledged that, in principal, “You never say to a president for certain you wouldn’t do anything.” He nevertheless made his expectations for the year ahead clear: “I have no – look at me now – I have no desire to sit on the Supreme Court. None.” He said he’d be “deeply involved” in helping with the process, but not as the nominee.
This interview covered a lot of additional ground, including a reflection on the legacy of the Recovery Act, the economic debate at the heart of the Democratic presidential race, Biden’s spirited enthusiasm about America’s future, his cancer initiative, and more.
The full interview will air tonight at 8 p.m. eastern, followed by a special edition of The Rachel Maddow Show at 11 p.m. eastern.