In 1991, then-Senate Judiciary Chairman and potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden praised William Barr, President Trump's nominee to be attorney general. After the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of him and shortly before the Senate unanimously confirmed him by voice vote to be attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, Chairman Biden said:
Mr. President, the Attorney General of the United States owes allegiance first and foremost to the Constitution and laws of this country, as we all know. This responsibility tempers his loyalty to the President that he or she may serve. The White House counsel answers to the President alone. The Attorney General does not answer to the President alone. He also answers to the public and to the institutions of Government as well.
Throughout his career of public service, William Barr has acted to protect and enhance the authority of the Executive. As Attorney General, however, Mr. Barr must distinguish the interest of the President from those of the public, and he must respect the separate though complementary powers of the three branches of Government. Based on my contacts with Mr. Barr, both before and during his testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, I believe that Mr. Barr understands and is committed to the dual responsibility of the Office of Attorney General.
At the recent hearings on his nomination, I asked Mr. Barr about his view of the doctrine of separation of powers, and we discussed several areas where the exercise of power has caused tension between the executive and the legislative branches. . . . While there is ambiguity about what the Constitution envisions, Mr. Barr undoubtedly will continue to assert broad executive authority. I may disagree with his interpretation of executive power in certain of these instances, but Mr. Barr does not unreasonably seek to create ambiguity where none exists, and be expressed a commitment to defending the Constitution's division of power between the branches of Government even where he personally may desire that the powers were allocated differently.
In my view, this commitment to the public interest, above all else, is a critical attribute in an Attorney General, and I will vote to confirm Mr. Barr. . . . I look forward to working with Mr. Barr. I plan on supporting him, and I anticipate and hope that he will be a fine Attorney General.
Other Democrats rose in support of his confirmation and praised him in the highest terms as well. Chairman Biden took the floor again a few minutes later to note that no Democrat had called for a roll call vote, so great was the support for Mr. Barr's confirmation.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins another hearing tomorrow on the nomination of Bill Barr to be attorney general, he should receive similar support from senators of both parties.