Biden condemns Trump’s push to nominate Ginsburg replacement as ‘exercise in raw political power’

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, about the Supreme Court.

Carolyn Kaster | AP Photo

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sunday appealed to Senate Republicans to honor the dying wish of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and not vote on a nominee to fill the vacancy before the November presidential election.

“As a nation, we should heed her final call to us, not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country, our country, at a crossroads,” Biden said during a speech in Philadelphia. “There is so much at stake.”

The former vice president said the choice of the nominee to replace Ginsburg, who died on Friday evening, should be the left to whoever wins the November election.

“If Trump wants to put forward a name now, the Senate should not act until after the American people select their next president, their next Congress, their next Senate,” Biden said.

“To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power. And I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it,” he said.

Ginsburg’s death immediately sparked a contentious political battle over the balance of power on the nation’s highest judicial body and has dramatically shifted the focus of a bitter presidential race between Trump and Biden.

The day after Ginsburg’s death, Trump said he would choose his nominee in the coming week and said his administration would seek to move ahead with the nomination before the November election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the nominee would receive a vote on the Senate floor.

However, two Republican Senators have announced their opposition to filling Ginsburg’s seat before Nov. 3: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Senate Republicans hold a 53-seat majority, so the party can only have three defections assuming every Democrat votes against Trump’s nominee.

“I appeal to those few senate Republicans, the handful who really will decide what happens. Please, follow your conscience,” Biden said. “Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there.” 

During the 1992 election year, Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged President George H.W. Bush to delay filling any potential vacancy on the Supreme Court until after Election Day. The speech was touted by Republicans during the 2016 standoff over President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Biden on Sunday pointed out McConnell’s blocking of Garland’s nomination to the court and urged Senate Republicans that they “can’t unring the bell.”

“Having made this their standard when it served their interest, they cannot, just four years later, change course when it doesn’t serve their ends,” Biden said. He also warned voters in the upcoming election that their healthcare is at stake.

“I’m speaking for the millions of Americans out there who are already voting in this election. Millions of Americans who are voting because they know their health care hangs in the balance,” Biden added. “In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is at the Supreme Court trying to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families.”

Biden also doubled down on his commitment to naming a Black woman to the bench, saying the person will be his first pick. But the former vice president said he will not release a list of potential nominees, as Trump has. Biden first pledged to name a Black woman to the court during a Democratic debate in February.

“The voters of this country should be heard. Voting has already begun in some states,” Biden said. “And in just a few weeks, all the voters of this nation will be heard. They are the ones who should decide who has the power to make this appointment.”

—CNBC’s Tucker Higgins contributed to this report 

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